Kees (Kase) van Ittersum has been with New Standard as part owner since its beginning. He specializes in hog barn design and has been involved in Electronic Sow Feeding (ESF) since 1995. The group sow housing and ESF movement started in Europe in the late 90s while Kees was still living in the Netherlands. There he gained a great amount of experience with loose housing hog barn design and equipment.
When he moved to Canada in the early 2000s, the movement had not yet reached North America, but he knew it would soon come. While Kees has always sold ESF and loose housing equipment with the focus being on barn efficiency and precision farming, North American animal welfare pressures kick started the group sow housing movement around 2007. Learn more about Kees and his role in the development North American sow housing.
Born and Raised in Dutch Agriculture
Kees was raised on a dairy farm in Holland, and he went to school and earned a bachelor degree in Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Business Administration. After finishing his education, Kees served in the Dutch army where he developed his managerial skills at all levels of an organization through officers’ training. After serving in the army, he was back into agriculture working as a salesman of vet products. After a few years, he transitioned companies and roles and became a ventilation specialist for 6 years.
Then, in 1995 he became CEO for a company, named CAWI, that specialized in manufacturing and selling pig equipment in Europe and Asia. In 1999 he purchased CAWI and merged with a local company. An interesting note is that CAWI was involved in building the first ESF models with Nedap. The Dutch specialized in livestock identification systems, and they were able to take the systems they used in dairy farming and convert them to an ESF system that has developed into a complete sow housing management system. While CAWI sold and installed another brand of ESF equipment, they switched and became a Nedap dealer again in 2000.
Moving to Canada
In 2002, Kees moved to Calgary, Alberta where he opened the sales office for CAWI Canada Ltd. He had experienced the group sow housing revolution in Europe, and even though North American policies were not yet changing, he believed the revolution would eventually reach Canada and the United States. As CAWI Canada developed, it specialized in hog and poultry equipment and ventilation. Four years after moving to Canada, Kees and another Dutch partner, Jan van Issum joined forces with brothers Tim and Kevin Kurbis to start the New Standard Group and CAWI Canada became New Standard West. CAWI Canada sold a few ESF systems from 2002 to 2006, but many farmers did not yet see the need to convert to group gestation pens. That changed in 2007 when growing animal welfare concerns from end consumers started forcing large food companies to make changes. In 2007, both Maple Leaf and Smithfield announced that they would be converting all of their barns to loose housing within the following decade.
North American Group Sow Housing Movement
These decisions changed the attitude towards group housing in North America. In fact, at the time New Standard was in talks to build a large traditional stall barn for Eagle Creek Colony, but the conversation immediately switched to group gestation pens and ESF equipment after these announcements. Kees was able to bring in his expertise to design the Eagle Creek sow housing facility, which set the new industry standard in North America. The barns built after the Eagle Creek facility followed the same group gestation pen and ESF model, and these hog barn design standards continue to be copied today.
There has not yet been any broad regulation passed forcing producers to convert to group sow housing, except in a few States, but end consumers continue to demand that their pork be produced in facilities that house their gestating sows in group pens. While consumer pressures do drive the market, New Standard does not believe producers should convert to group gestation pens because of these pressures. When designed, equipped, and operated properly, group housing and ESF facilities improve production over stall barns. Kees and New Standard have always sold ESF equipment based on improving production, increasing efficiency, lowering operating costs, and improving sow health. When you are operating a loose sow housing facility properly, you will also have happier sows, and what's bad about that?
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