2 Sisters Food Group has claimed it will have “the world’s most advanced poultry processing plant” at its site in the UK town of Scunthorpe as it unveiled plans to invest in automation and boost capacity.

The company said a GBP45m “upgrade” will see the installation of new robotic cells at the plant to create “a fully automated process”. The move will increase the capacity of the site by a third to 2.4m birds a week, 2 Sisters said.

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The business also insisted the investment would “will future-proof the Scunthorpe operation” and secure over 1,600 jobs at the site, as well as improve animal welfare and quality. The upgrade is a critical part of a GBP150m investment programme into 2 Sisters’ poultry business, which the company announced alongside its annual results in October. The programme, to be phased over three years, “will create a world-class and industry leading estate for poultry manufacturing”, 2 Sisters added.

Poultry is the largest of 2 Sisters’ businesses by sales. The company also manufactures chilled items including pizzas and ready meals.

2 Sisters has opened talks with employees at a domestic pizza facility after losing a contract to make own-label products.

Talks with staff at the Pizza Factory site in Nottingham started on 12 August and are set to last 45 days. The plant employs 1,150 workers.

On Friday, UK union Unite said 2 Sisters Food Group had said it would not cut jobs at the plant before the own-label contract expires in January.

Unite claims up to 325 production staff could see their jobs cut. Speaking to just-food on Wednesday, 2 Sisters said it was too early to discuss what impact the loss of the contract could have on the amount of staff that is employed at the site. The company had not responded to request for comment on Unite’s statement at the time of writing.

Speaking on Friday, Unite regional officer Andy Shaw said: “One thorny area that we will be contesting is that we believe that an enhanced redundancy package is in place with The Pizza Factory, although the company says that it intends only to pay the statutory minimum which we consider to be totally unacceptable.”

2 Sisters declined to comment on Unite’s claims when approached today.