RCL FOODS Technical Manager, Steven Franklin Gets Masters Thesis Published In Global Journal

Steven Franklin has been part of RCL FOODS since May 2015, working in the EPOL Feeds division. Epol’s feed fuels RAINBOW chickens, the second largest producer in South Africa. Brett Rosendaal, identified Steven’s burning interest in agriculture and biosciences and offered him the opportunity to persue his Master of Sciences (MSc.) He successfully completed his MSc at UKZN whilst working full time for EPOL, and it has all paid off with his research being published in a prestigious scientific journal.

Steven’s trial looked at the impact of reducing inorganic trace mineral (Zinc, Manganese and Copper) levels on broiler performance such as body weight, feed conversion (FCR) and feed intake which are all vital growth parameters for healthy chickens. While essential for healthy poultry, these trace minerals are often included in broiler diets in excess of what the bird requires. “Inorganic trace minerals are not well absorbed by the chicken and some are excreted in their manure which can have a negative impact on the environment if used as fertilizer,” explained Steven. “Long term application of chicken litter as fertilizer to agricultural lands can cause minerals to accumulate in topsoil causing reduced crop yields, contamination of water and ultimately affect animals that consume the plants,” he continued.

The results of the trial showed that broiler performance was not statistically different when they were fed reduced levels of trace mineral. These show great potential for poultry agriculture because they prove that broilers can function optimally with reduced mineral level intakes whilst decreasing the impact on the environment, reducing operating costs and ultimately boosting profitability.

While it’s no surprise to us that Steven’s work was published in a world-renowned scientific journal, Steven most certainly wasn’t expecting it. “I was surprised and overjoyed to find out that Animal, The International Journal of Animal Biosciences had accepted my article,” he explained, adding that they are ranked in the Top 10 Journals for Agriculture, Dairy and Animal Sciences!

It took three and a half years for Steven to complete his MSc whilst working, and he faced a few difficulties along the way. He was regularly traveling to EPOL Berlin, in the Eastern Cape, standing in as the Technical Manager there, and taking on added responsibilities for the company. Of course, all the added accountability took away from the amount of time he had to work on his studies, but in true RCL FOODS style he took it in his stride and happily did more. He also had another hiccup in the form of a change in supervisor’s halfway through his Masters. Despite all the difficulties he faced, Steven is grateful for the experience: “While under constant pressure, I gained experience and knowledge which aided me in finessing my Masters paper and equipping me with invaluable skills for the future.”

Steven’s support network helped see him through. His close bond with his colleagues and his sturdy relationship with his family helped to keep him motivated through the challenges. “I was lucky enough to be guided by the Technical Team at RCL FOODS who have a wealth of knowledge and expertise,” he shared, adding that his family and wife’s constant love, support, advice, encouragement, and affection throughout his years of education always reminded him to never give up.

Steven’s journey with academics isn’t over. He’s currently working with his supervisor to publish his second Masters trial in an international journal. “After that I may consider throwing in a PhD,” he said with a smile.

Steven’s work has been an eye-opener for the agriculture industry and seeing his work recognised by a prestigious journal warms our hearts. Anina Hunter, Feeds Director quoted: “We at RCL FOODS, EPOL and RAINBOW are immensely proud of him and we thank him for being an inspiration to us not only by impacting the way we run, but by being a shining example of what we can achieve when we do MORE.”