Tanzanian entrepreneur Hillary Shoo builds first poultry processing plant from scratch

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With an aim to transform the chicken market and industrialise the country’s poultry sector, Hillary Shoo, Tanzanian entrepreneur has, from scratch, built the first poultry processing plant in the country, a first-of-its-kind in the East African nation.

Well-known for his diverse portfolio, Shoo’s journey to building the plant dates back in 2014 when he came up with plans to establish a greenfield poultry processing plant and complete Hill Group’s vertical integration.

Hill Group is a combination of several companies registered to operate in the United Republic of Tanzania which the entrepreneur started from humble beginnings of a small agrovet shop in the year 2000.

With the formulated poultry processing facility plans, Shoo found support for the project from Marel, a South African-based firm specialised in transforming the way food is processed. And the two companies worked together to build the factory from the ground up.

He says he first met Marel at the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE), the world’s largest annual poultry, feed, and meat technology exposition in Atlanta.

“I already had the plan and I was comparing companies only to identify Marel just through their best communication approach,” said Shoo who is also the Founder, Managing Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Hill Group.

According to him, Marel was the sole company to provide swift responses to my inquiries and assigned a project manager to handle his work by guiding him through every step of the process.

“This was incredibly helpful since I was entirely unfamiliar with the industry. For example, I wasn’t aware that I needed to manage wastewater and offal as well.”

After some years of construction, Hill Group processing plant is now about 11 months in operation in Dar es Salaam.

It is a success story of how collaboration between entrepreneurs and other companies can yield better results in the continent and beyond.

“Marel really assisted us in finalizing our building and establishing the essential utilities, transforming it into a ready-for-use project. We collaborated closely to ensure the machinery could be properly connected and that the building was fully prepared to accommodate the processing line. Additionally, the Marel team recommended altering the climate in the receiving area. Marel guided us through the entire process, from laying the building’s foundations to installing floors and erecting steel structures,” said Shoo.

The plant’s processing capacity

At Hill Group’s greenfield facility, the initial processing capacity is 3,000 birds per hour (bph) [50 birds per minute (bpm)], with the line designed for a potential upgrade to 6,000 bph [100 bpm].

The process begins with floor scales connected to Innova, which weigh the incoming live birds. Following electrical stunning, the birds are manually killed to ensure 100 per cent halal production.

Despite the Tanzanian population comprising both Christians and Muslims, there is no segregation of products in the marketplace. Scalding and plucking are carried out using Marel equipment.

After passing through the combined VOC vent cutter and opening machine, the automated evisceration line, featuring a Nuova eviscerator, includes a separate pack line for manual harvesting. The eviscerator operates with 8 units at a 12” pitch.

Expanding to 16 units to achieve 6,000 bph is straightforward and does not require a significant investment.

Whole birds or cut-up parts

In an area designated for future automation, feet are removed from the shackles. In Tanzania, chicken feet, along with livers, gizzards, and other giblets, are sold for human consumption.

Hill Group currently processes giblets manually, though the department is set up for eventual automation.

After evisceration, products are chilled in a water chiller and then sorted by weight using a Compact Grader. The products are either directed to be cut up or packed as whole birds.

Approximately 70% of the products are sold whole, while the remaining 30% are sold as cut-up parts, primarily in supermarkets. For product delivery, Hill Group utilises its own fleet of trucks, focusing distribution on major urban centers like Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Arusha, Morogoro, and Dodoma.

Tanzania poultry market

Tanzania’s population, currently around 63 million and rapidly increasing, is experiencing a rise in chicken consumption as living standards improve. Chicken has become a staple at social gatherings, such as weddings. Traditionally, the wet market has been the primary source of chicken in Tanzania.

“We are pioneering industrial chicken processing in the region. Hill Group stands out as one of the few fully automated poultry facilities in East Africa,” said Shoo.

According to him, restaurants have been key customers for the business since they prefer not to purchase their chicken meat from wet markets anymore.

“However, we also serve everyone endeavoring to penetrate all market segments. We’ll ensure that our chicken meat remains affordable for those with low incomes, continuing our commitment to accessibility and affordability.”

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