November 11, 2015
China agriculture leaders focus on growth opportunities at Alltech China REBELation




Challenging the audience to "do what makes your heart sing," Alltech founder and president Dr. Pearse Lyons concluded the Alltech China REBELation Day in Beijing, where more than 100 industry leaders gathered to explore innovation, inspiration and opportunities for growth in China.

Alltech REBELation, an international conference that discussed entrepreneurship, business and marketing, and the roles of science and technology in agriculture, was held last May in Lexington, Kentucky. Alltech China shared highlights of the event with Chinese industry leaders, allowing them to explore and discuss the global concepts on a local level.

Dr. Lyons shared that Alltech is focused on two things: innovation and urgency. As the company moves towards becoming a 10 billion dollar company, it is consistently seeking new products and ways to innovate, such as its algae platform. He stressed that there is a level of urgency required, but one cannot do it alone. "It is never about you; it is about your team and your customer," he said.

Four industry leaders took to the stage to discuss opportunities and challenges in Chinese food production. Tao Yishan, chairman of Tangrenshen; Wang Lianzen, Huayu CEO; Cai Huiyi, CAAS researcher; and Fu Wenge, China Agriculture University professor, talked about change in the industry and the importance of conducting business with a high level of integrity. The growing importance of the internet in agriculture was of particular interest and the panel agreed that as more and more agricultural companies develop new technologies, the internet will be an integral part of business in the future. They concluded that this should help to improve the flow of information in agriculture and thus help to improve overall efficiency.
Patrick Yu, president of COFCO, China's largest food processing manufacturer and trader, opened the meeting with a discussion on the outlook of the food and feed industry in China. He stressed that the industry must upgrade animal protein consumption and that there is plenty of room for further development of China's food and feed industry. "Moderate-scale management is the main way to improve the cost competitiveness of agricultural products in China," he said. Yu shared three key challenges that food and feed companies must resolve: cost, food safety and sustainable development.  He emphasised the importance of using innovation to overcome these challenges. "Companies who lead the innovation of manufacturing and technology will become the future leaders of the food and feed industry," he said.

Dr. Mark Lyons, Alltech vice president and general manager of Alltech China, highlighted the tremendous opportunities in China. "As 400 million people have been lifted out of poverty, the transformation of economic growth and industry structure upgrades bring tremendous potential to the market," he said. He emphasised that technology cooperation and speed are key to development in China. "Big data analysis can provide the agricultural industry with valuable strategic advice," said Lyons. "Speed in decision making can be a key factor to success, allowing companies to seize opportunities as they arise," he added.

Lyons stressed the importance of cooperation, highlighting Alltech's collaboration with Nestlé at the Dairy Farming Institute in Shuangcheng in Heilongjiang province. A major investment for both companies, the Institute, launched in October 2014, is helping modernise Chinese dairy farming practices so farmers can meet the population's burgeoning milk demand.

Aidan Connolly, Alltech chief innovation officer and vice-president of corporate accounts, talked about future proofing the food industry. "Challenges associated with feeding the planet have never been as complex," he said. Traditional concerns with costs, quality and yields are now combined with new challenges that were inconceivable 50 years ago.  He stressed that food safety is a must for China.  "As a supplier of staple foods, it is of paramount importance that the food we provide is safe, tasty and offers good value for money," he emphasised. Connolly also discussed Red Tractor, a leading farm and quality food assurance initiative in the United Kingdom. Red Tractor was launched by the food industry to promote clearer labelling and ensure food originates from a trustworthy source.

Rob Koepp, director of the Economist Corporate Network, shared an analysis of China's economy. He said that while the US is still the world's largest economy, China is the second largest, generating US$901 billion in GDP. While India is seventh in size, it is now growing faster than China. Koepp stressed that growth in agriculture in China is lagging in terms of GDP output and highlighted key areas for improvement, including improving productivity efficiencies, marketing healthy, natural products and investing in automation and online marketing.

Dr. Neil Xue, research director of Alltech China, spoke about using research to address the problems of tomorrow. He stressed that efficient research and innovation is a necessary core competence. Xue shared that Alltech has developed 23 research alliances globally, ten of which are in China, to help address challenges such as increasing environmental regulations and growing concern regarding food safety. "Alltech works with top universities, research institutes and companies to find solutions for tomorrow's challenges," said Xue.

In concluding the event, Dr. Pearse Lyons encouraged the audience to share the urgency of seeking new products and news ways to innovate, while making sure to have a dream with purpose and passion, saying, "Don't die with music still in you."
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