Last month, I was invited to attend the Alltech Symposium. Alltech is a global agricultural company that produces a variety of products used in several segments of food production. Other than their beer (which was quite tasty), bourbon, and coffee products, a big portion of what is produced by Alltech is sold to others within agriculture. The average consumer probably doesn’t even know the company exists.
So, that got me thinking. When people ask me where I was last week; why I left my kids and my husband for 5 days to attend a symposium hosted by a global agriculture company, what will I tell them? How do I relate what Alltech does to them and their everyday lives?
What does Alltech do to affect the average consumer?
- DHA (Docosahexanoeic acid): The most important of the omega 3 fatty acids, DHA promotes brain and eye health in babies and small children and is important for heart health and immunity in adults. New research is showing that kids supplemented with DHA have greater attention spans and sleep longer (Score!).
Most DHA comes from fish oil or a diet high in fish. The fish get the DHA through the food chain, originally from algae. Alltech is capturing the DHA directly from the algae and working on ways to get it into livestock feed. In addition to making the animals healthier, the DHA will be deposited into meat, milk and eggs. Then, our everyday foods will be naturally supplemented with DHA. No more fish oil pills or worrying about over-fishing the oceans for DHA.
We toured the Alltech Algae plant in Kentucky while we were there.
- Antibiotics: A hot topic in animal agriculture today. Consumers worry about the overuse of antibiotics in livestock. Alltech works with farmers to improve the health and immunity of their livestock and help them reduce the amount of antibiotics used on their farms.
- Farming technology: We’ve all heard about how massive amounts of data is used by marketing companies to follow our purchases at stores, and we’ve seen stories about the military’s use of drones and small, remote controlled aircraft. At the symposium, we discussed how those technologies can be used by farmers to produce food more efficiently. Imagine computers helping farmers know when to plant and harvest crops or when a cow is getting sick. I was personally quite impressed with the possibility of using a drone with a camera attached to it to check cows in hard-to-reach places on our hilly farm. When farmers work more efficiently, more food is produced. That will not only affect the price of food, but the availability of food throughout the world.
- Promote new science: Alltech embraces science and the role science plays in food production. Research discussed at the symposium explored the way nutrition can change the genetic code of babies in the first 1000 days of life. This Nutrigenomics research is in its infancy, but it takes support from companies like Alltech to drive these hypotheses from ideas to real-world applications that will make us and our children healthier.
- Bees: One in three bites of food that Americans eat is directly or indirectly affected by bees, but the bees in our country are suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder. The bees leave the hive, never to return. Education and awareness are the biggest factors in helping the bees, but Alltech is conducting research to figure out how to save the bees and get them healthy again.
- Food safety: Obviously food safety is important to consumers. Food safety is dependent on all the links in the food chain. In a global food supply, those links may span across several countries that have varied levels of food safety regulations. Alltech recognizes that challenge and utilizes an all-encompassing Quality system that ensures food safety and traceability of their products regardless of the regulations (of lack of regulation) in the country that supplied it. This approach will reap benefits for their products, but more importantly, it will set an example of consistent, high quality food production worldwide.
- Environmental sustainability: Sometimes sustainability can be hard to define. At last year’s symposium, Alltech brought together scientists from all over the world to discuss ways to measure and improve the environmental impact of animal agriculture. I wrote a post about our carbon hoofprint after the meeting last year.
- Look at the Global Picture: We live in a big world and the number of mouths to feed in it is increasing more and more each day. Because of its size and scope, Alltech is able to focus on improving pork production in China, grain production in Europe, and beef production in Brazil. Some of that focus is on products that can be sold within agriculture today, some is in developing products for tomorrow, but some is simply bringing together people in the world that can work to solve the challenges that we are facing today and the opportunities in the future.
Sometimes I think we forget the benefits of having lots of interests can be. A global agriculture company like Alltech can have a huge positive impact on consumers every day, and the consumers may never know about it. As with all the folks involved in agriculture, the people at Alltech are working hard to provide a safe, healthy and abundant food supply for the entire world.
I learned so much at the symposium this year (and last). I'm really excited about my next post about what I learned about Africa!