A higher speed with less labor stress for Agricola Bacău

Romanian processor expands from 8,000 to 13,500 bph

IRIS Smartweigher GDR

In 2022, Romanian poultry processor Agricola Bacău finalized the expansion from a capacity of 8,000 bph to 13,500 bph [133 to 225 bpm]. At the same time, working conditions for their staff improved considerably. Oana Jigau, plant manager, and Florin Ciutacu, investment manager, talk about their experiences.

Agricola Bacau Building People

Since 1996, when the first investment was made with Stork (now Marel), Agricola has been working with Marel and Riva, Marel’s representative in Romania. In 1996, Agricola started with a capacity of 6,000 bph [100 bpm] and in 2008, there was a major upgrade with Marel to 8,000 bph [133 bpm]. In 2020, investment in the 13,500 bph [225 bpm] plant started. Today, Agricola supplies to all sectors of the Romanian market. These include retailers (supermarkets, hypermarkets), industrial customers such as processors who purchase raw materials (particularly fillets), horeca and caterers with a big role for KFC. The domestic market accounts for 80% of production with 20% going for export, especially to the UK and Europe. Agricola produces one truck of calibrated fixed-weight fillets daily for the UK market.

Which processes have changed compared to the 8,000 bph setup?

Oana Jigau says, “The first reason for expanding our capacity was a growing market. We needed to grow with it. So we replaced almost all primary processes.“ The whole evisceration process at Agricola is automated. The evisceration department is full of Marel equipment from the VC-20 Vent Cutter, the VO-20 Opening Machine and the Nuova 24 eviscerator up to the NIC neck skin inspection, the Neck Cracker, the Neck Skin Trimmer, the FIM RotoVac final inspection and the Inside/Outside Washer. The line also includes LineLink DE and LineLink EC transfer units for rehanging products from the kill line to the air chill line. “We used to have five chilling tunnels; we now have six. Originally, they had been designed to handle turkeys too and had bigger corner wheels. They now handle broilers only and we have optimized the design for this product. The upgraded tunnels are now capable of maintaining the ideal temperature throughout, even with slightly larger chickens. Their capacity is more than sufficient.

Agricola Products

What was the most striking change?

One thing that turned out very well was chilling giblets on conveyor belts in the air-chilling tunnel. Before, we chilled in water, resulting in too much water in the trays. Presentation is now perfect with no water. Our giblet process is fully automated with Marel PLH (livers), HLH, MG-150 (gizzards), and HLS (hearts). We sell all of our giblets in trays of around 500, 600 grams [1.1, 1.3 lb]. They are popular products on supermarket shelves.” In Agricola’s distribution line, IRIS and SmartWeigher assess products for Innova PDS to determine the best destination for every product. “In the past, we were limited to one cut-up line that couldn’t handle more products, so we had to produce at least 20% whole birds. One of the reasons for upgrading to 13,500 bph [225 bpm] was to produce more cut-up. We doubled our setup to two ACM-NT cut-up lines and now we produce only 6% whole birds, while 94% is cut up.

The ability to add more value to our products was another reason for the upgrade. That’s why we also doubled our breast deboning capacity to four AMF-i systems. Every breast cap coming from the cut-up lines goes to the AMF-i systems. Now we can produce around 50 tons of deboned breast meat daily.”

What did the upgrade from 8,000 to 13,500 imply for your staff?

Florin Ciutacu says, “Previously, our employees used to work ten hours a day for six days a week. We needed to reduce their workload. So we changed to eight hours a day for five days a week, which has positively impacted our employees’ well-being. What is more, the new working hours have made it easier for us to hire and retain people. At Agricola, we always strive to improve the lives of our employees. We transport them in our own buses from and to the villages around Bacău. We train our people to become qualified, earn more salary, learn to work better and stay with our company.

Regarding labor availability, we are in quite a good situation right now. We are working with the same number of people, but in a more concentrated timeframe. Now we only have five working days with more working positions in the factory. Despite the higher line speed, we have not had to hire more people.

Agricola Chilling

What are the particular aspects of your partnership with Marel?

Oana Jigau continues, “We receive very good professional support and service from Marel. The Marel people, who come to help us, have great knowledge. We have had Marel’s PMS [Preventive Maintenance Schedule] for several years now and we’re very satisfied. Experts from Marel, who are more specialized than ourselves, know what to do and can give us advice. That’s important because we then have the guarantee that our line is running as well as it can. Without PMS, we would be taking a substantial risk. We depend on Marel staff for help. We have faith in their judgment to determine whether parts need replacing, in line with the maintenance schedule. This gives us peace of mind. Of course, the pandemic presented some serious obstacles but I’m sure both Agricola and Marel learned a lot from that period. Now everything appears to be back to normal.”

The Marel people who come to help us have great knowledge.

Oana Jigau
Plant Manager Agricola Bacău

About Agricola

Agricola is an integrated company, active mainly in the poultry industry, with its headquarters in Bacău in Romania. The company controls the whole value chain from feed mill, hatcheries, breeding farms, an egg farm, a state-of-the-art processing plant, a convenience food plant, logistics and distribution to a chain of shops. Since its foundation in 1992, Agricola focuses on quality products and grows their own slow-growing happy chicken, yellow chicken and forest rooster breeds. These are processed in another smaller processing plant running 2,000 bph [33 bpm]. The completely upgraded 13,500 bph [225 bpm] processing plant processes regular broilers only. All products are marketed under the Agricola brand, although there are some subsidiary brands and Agricola also does some private label work for retailers.

Company website: agricola.ro

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