BEI Ag Solutions markets an electrostatic partial ionization system to remove entrained dust from the air in poultry houses. The principle of its installation involves charging parallel electric lines which run the length of a house, which effectively “flood” the atmosphere with negative ions resulting in the deposit of dust particles on surfaces within the house.
The system was devised principally to limit environmental pollution and has been extensively evaluated in British Columbia, Canada, for broiler and turkey growing houses. The reduction in dust inhaled by flocks together with lower levels of ammonia with restricted ventilation rates may also contribute to improved growth, livability, feed conversion efficiency and hence, profitability.
The system has been installed in layer houses in Ohio in response to environmental mandates to lower release of dust from houses in close proximity to dwellings. According to Matthew Baumgartner, general manager of BEI, an installation in a house approximately 33,000 sq. ft. in extent would cost $20,000 and would require four lines with their individual ion generators. An annual operating cost of $5,000 was assumed to cover depreciation at 15% p.a. with interest at 7% and a provision for utilities, maintenance and other expenditures of $600 per annum. Breaking even can be achieved by raising production by an additional 0.6% during the six months of year when atmospheric dust and ammonia are a problem due to reduced ventilation rates. This calculation is based on a flock of 130,000 hens with 76% hen-to-pack yield and a revenue of $1 per dozen.
Dust that is precipitated by the system will accumulate on all surfaces, including the structure and cages, according to BEI. Displacement using a leaf blower will be deleterious since mobilization of the precipitated dust would result in inhalation and predispose the flocks to airsacculitis and peritonitis. In the Ohio installation, the longitudinal wires generating negative ions were located beneath the cages. This arrangement allowed dust entrained in the air exhausted from the house to be deposited in pits.
An alternative but more expensive approach would be to exhaust air into a precipitation and heat exchange chamber which could then separate dust particles and re-circulate clean warm air into the house. This principle has been applied in incubators to remove fluff under experimental conditions. A similar method has been used to temper air by removing dust and adding moisture in a broiler operation located on a dry highland plateau. Broiler performance in this location was severely impacted by respiratory disease exacerbated by a combination of dust and low humidity.