How do businesses maintain growth in pandemic volatility?

—  An interview with FAMSUN vice president Liu Ping



The Delta variant continues to surge across the world and has created severe economic and social disruption this summer. In Yangzhou, China, where the leading integrated solution provider FAMSUN is headquartered, the city had to impose a strict lockdown in August due to rising cases. Did this wave of pandemic affect FAMSUN's operating result and outlook this year? After the city announced resumption on September 3, 2021, we had a chance to talk with FAMSUN vice president Liu Ping about the company's operation and her perspectives on the importance of R&D innovation on business growth in pandemic volatility. Liu Ping currently leads FAMSUN's Brand, Communication, Public Relations and Government Affairs. She is the first female member of FAMSUN's Executive Board.   


First of all, would you like to share something about FAMSUN's operating performance this year?

Liu: No problem. At FAMSUN, we continue to hold steady growth despite the pandemic volatility. Our sales revenue in the first eight months as of August 31 was up 30% over the same period of 2020. And throughout the year, we expect an increase of 50% in sales with growing new order volume, supported by a resilient supply and delivery system.


How do you think the pandemic will change the global agri-food industry?


Liu: I'm sure it will accelerate the resilience capacity building in the agri-food value chain. Leading technologies and innovations will be applied in more farms, feed mills, processing plants, and associated enterprises to enable them to address challenges and uncertainties, resolve risks, and create new development opportunities. Even with a complete and resilient supply chain in China, the outstanding businesses are always those high-tech users or transformers during this pandemic.  

And lucky for FAMSUN, as a technology partner and a solution provider, we deeply know about the power of technologies and innovations. FAMSUN has given priority to the R&D of our products, solutions, and services to provide resilience to customers for years. We also encourage our employees to leverage advanced technologies to build capacity in their work throughout. I think this is why FAMSUN can successfully innovate operating and business modes to rapidly adapt to the pandemic disruptions, hold steady growth, and strengthen our market position in volatile times.


Could you please tell us more about how FAMSUN build capacity in R&D and innovation?

Liu: The first and the most important point is that FAMSUN keeps investing five percent of revenue in R&D every year. Our increasing budget as a good result of growing business performance ensures that our experts can accelerate research, development, and innovation plans and turn ideas into advanced solutions for feed milling, oil and fat processing, grain storage and handling, food processing, and industrial automation fields. It also ensures that FAMSUN is a competitive integrated solution provider in the farm-to-table industry chain.

We have over 300 of the top R&D talents from different nations and different professional fields with great knowledge, experience, wisdom, innovative skills, and motivation for success. They spark new ideas and solutions by closely working with our engineering and service experts, collaborating with feed producers, as well as by partnering with industrial partners, universities, research institutes, and academics. This is most ideal collaborative and circular innovation mode. With 16 products recognised as "China-national high and new technologies", eight "China-national key development new products", and four innovation programmes that won the Second Prize of the China National Scientific and Technological Progress Awards, FAMSUN is sharing and scaling its innovations and leading technologies in the agri-food industry to create advanced food production systems worldwide.


Is there any successful application story of FAMSUN's collaborative innovation achievements?

Liu: We have plenty of such success stories. For example, the R&D and Industrialization of Large-Scale Intelligent Aquafeed Processing Equipment And Technology programme, which won the first prize of the 2020 China Machinery Industry Science and Technology Awards, is incorporating the latest intelligent, automation, and digital technologies into aquafeed processing machines, systems, and production lines. It is the collective achievement of our R&D Institutes in China, the United States, and Demark, and the local expertise of our aquafeed mill customers in China and Asia. The FAMSUN Intelligent Dryer and Vacuum Coater that were developed in this R&D project are creating productivity, efficiency, and profitability in a state-of-the-art aquafeed mill of Sao Mai Group in Vietnam. The feed mill includes 36 steel silos, each storing up to 300 tonnes of soymeal, which can supply 360,000 tonnes of high-quality feed for Basa catfish farming in Vietnam every year. The feed mill is the largest of its kind in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

Another example is the most advanced feed mill FAMSUN delivered to Tian Cheng Group in East China. It is the most comprehensive feed mill with a total annual capacity of 600,000 tonnes and 15 processing lines covering the production of premixes, expanded raw materials, and feeds for poultry, pig, shrimp, crab, fish, etc. The complex is designed with the latest FAMES system and highlighted by a Smart Card Logistics management system, intelligent equipment, and fully-automatic process control, packaging and stacking. 

We are now partnering with one of China's key agri-food integrators — Wen's Food Group — to build an intelligent, green feed mill in Yongqiao, Anhui, China. The most advanced feed mill will have a capacity of 80 tonnes per hour of high-quality and bio-secure swine feed to meet the feed demand of one million fattening pigs and one million piglets on Wen's farms nearby. With FAMSUN's Farm-Feed IoT platform, the physical production and operations of Wen's feed mill and farms are interactable. The farms can place feed orders online automatically according to their inventory and the daily usage of feed products. It supports an automatic procurement plan of feed raw materials, feed production schedule, and distribution and logistics routine optimisation and auto-appointment. In the intelligent feed mill, with full-plant sensing and data collecting technologies, removal of foreign matters such as iron blocks, pre-alert of hammer mill screen brokerage, calibration of dosing scales, and the control of pelleting and extrusion processes are all automatically made without manual intervention. It also allows for unmanned receival, sampling, and delivery of raw materials and feed products, etc.   


We have learned that FAMSUN was authorised to build a key laboratory for the research and development of intelligent and green feed manufacturing equipment and technology in China in 2020. Could you please give a brief about this laboratory?  

Liu: The construction of the laboratory is supported by the Sci-Tech Innovation Fund of the Jiangsu Government. It is the only key laboratory in China for feed manufacturing equipment and technology. It will support the research, development, innovation, and test of basic knowledge, strategic processing equipment, processing technologies, and solutions for promoting the transformation of green facilities and Industry 4.0 in the feed industry. FAMSUN will construct the laboratory with FAMSUN feed milling machines, technologies, and solutions. Our top expert teams will use their expertise in feed milling and from across fields to make a vital contribution to some key research programmes. It will be also open to university students, researchers, academia, customers, and industry partners to support and drive innovation in feed manufacturing.


We have noticed that FAMSUN emphasises a lot on the "Industry-Education-Research" Cooperation mode in past years. How do you operate the mode in China and in other countries to drive innovation?


Liu: At FAMSUN, we welcome all kinds of open access to collective innovation. The "Industry-Education-Research" cooperation is the most mature mode that we operate to expand our innovation ecosystem and build new partnerships to improve R&D. In China, we cooperate with leading agri-related and associate universities, colleges, and research institutes including China Agricultural University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Henan University Of Technology, Wuhan University Of Light Technology, Wuhan Institute Of Scientific Research And Design in some key research projects of the national 'five-year' plans. Our research results were tested in the production farms, factories, and facilities of our industry partners such as New Hope Liuhe Group, CP Group, Wellhope, Wen's Food Group, etc. to research the best application practices of these new research achievements before using them to boost commercial and industrial production in the agri-food sector.

Though "Industry-Education-Research", FAMSUN is also active in co-fostering future talent for the agri-food industry. We participate in the curriculum design for undergraduates of feed manufacturing in China. Every year, we provide about 150 training opportunities for university students to work with FAMSUN experts in real work, gain expertise and experience, develop new skills, and expand knowledge with our Summer Training Camp programme. And most of them will join FAMSUN after graduation.

Same as in China, we have also developed partnerships with such famous universities as the Kansas State University in the US, some famous design institutes, and key players of the local agri-food industry through our global R&D institutes, manufacturing bases, and sales and service offices. I believe, as FAMSUN accelerates its globalisation and localisation pace, and with more and more local talents joining our organisation, we will form more win-win local partnerships in R&D and create more innovative solutions to support the capacity building of local agri-food production systems. 

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