May 25, 2012 - The Alltech 28th Annual International Symposium concluded with the pledge for continuous innovation in order to meet the agricultural challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. The Symposium highlighted the wide range of solutions available to society to meet this challenge.
Speaking to an audience of 3,000 delegates, Dr. Ronan Power, vice president of nutrigenomics at Alltech, began the closing session by providing a glimpse of a future where combating disease starts from the cell up. He used the analogy of a hydroelectric power plant to explain the mitochondria, which he referred to as the powerhouse of the human body. Human beings are living longer and as a result encountering disease challenges of a mitochondrial origin, such as Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.
He explained that, “Energy comes at a cost and there are harmful emissions like mitochondrial emissions or reactive oxygen species.”
Dr. Power said that biomarkers required to map changes in this area can now be identified. He said that the era of everyone having their own “doctor or laboratory on a chip” is fast approaching.
Dr. Mark Lyons, vice president of Alltech, followed with an insightful overview on doing business in China, the largest feed market at 175 million tons per year, and the most populous nation in the world. He explained the importance of Chinese culture and how every single day Chinese people live out 5,000 years of history, and how they are looking forward and not back. Agriculture is top priority for government as it contributes 10.9 percent of GDP in China and employs 39.5 percent of the labor force.
“China will be the largest economy in the world. It is only a question of when,” said Lyons.
He posed the question of how China is going to feed itself and the global implications of this for the agriculture and food industry. Food safety and food security are major issues, while food cost is still a major driver for consumers. He explained the secret to doing business in China is clarity, relationships and decision making. It is important to engage in three layers: top management, sales or purchasing, and technical. Decisiveness and clarity are the key piece.
“They are expecting the best, they want support and partnership.” He concluded by saying, “China is the new New York, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”
Chief marketing officer of Alltech, Catherine Keogh, presented on what it takes to build a megabrand and how the agriculture industry can tell its story to the consumer in a rapidly changing world. She said that agricultural brands and the industry as a whole need to consider the audience and how it can multiply these story-telling opportunities and how the industry can win “the war of words and images.”
Keogh emphasized that successful companies will thrive on the basis of their stories. She said, “Stories are how people connect, are what people remember, are how people learn and are what people share.”
Keogh highlighted that the industry needs to communicate, connect and create conviction with a young audience who engages with their environment online and in a social way before that void is filled by other interest groups. She said, “Our industry must take back ownership and harness the power of the hundreds of millions of brand ambassadors and advocates to transmit positive stories. The timing is right — social media is our game changer.”
Founder and president of Alltech, Dr. Pearse Lyons wrapped up the largest Alltech Symposium ever by sharing the stage with Tom and Anya, whose presence put the future in context. He said, “The ultimate social network is inside us,” and, “We should not mess with nature.”
He continued, “Agriculture needs more and more innovators. Surround yourselves with smart people, build small teams and this week we surrounded ourselves with 3,000 smart people.” He emphasized that entrepreneurs create jobs and that each member of the audience were the drivers of entrepreneurism.
The Symposium’s 175 speakers, 13 sessions, 22 discussion dinners and 136 side meetings discussed how we can feed Tom and Anya’s generation.
Visitors to the Alltech Symposium this year also had the opportunity to look at the World Market. With smells of newly baked bread and displays of fresh meat, it was a total experience of food. They previewed the virtual supermarket of the future and imagined purchasing the ingredients for their dinner using their phone.