Thad Simons, Co-Founder and Managing Director, The Yield Lab
We all know that the Poultry Industry has become the most efficient way to produce protein for our world. We also know the tremendous increasing demand for protein. Many voices are saying very loudly that we cannot get there through traditional production and must move to a plant based protein approach to save the planet and to achieve the production required. I reject that view, but agree that we must adopt a new approach in enabling us to continue to grow in a way that is sustainable for the planet and for what our consumers want. Up until now our productivity has largely been gained through improved genetics supported by better understanding of nutrition. This improvement continues even as we move away from old technologies like AGPs to better understanding and developing the micro-biome.
Is our Efficiency Growth Sustainable?
The McKinsey Institute recently published its Industry Digitization Index: Out of 22 industry sectors Agriculture was dead last in every application.
We need to put in monitoring systems, we need to work with start-ups and tech entrepreneurs that know our needs, challenges and opportunities but leave it to themselves to find creative solutions
So when we consider how digitally connected our world has become over even the past 10 years (the iPhone is only 11 years old and packs as much computing punch as the computers that took us to the Moon), we must consider that our industry is ripe for a massive digital revolution to continue to ride the efficiency gains that we have long enjoyed but also to better serve our increasingly demanding consumers for quality and transparency.
Where will it Come From?
Much like the ICT sector, which is the most digitized, this tech revolution must come from the start-ups and entrepreneurs that have led in the digital world. The real advantage we have is we can build this new digital world on the platform of technology that has been developed for all of the other industrial sectors. But how can we make this projections happen? We don’t think of the digital parts of our business, we don’t measure and monitor our operations as someone would do in a factory. We leave productivity gains on the floor because we can’t tell why some quarters we have tremendous results and in others in the same house with the same genetics and the same feed our results are not there.
No other industry tolerates the variability that we still have in our livestock and poultry operations from production through the complete value chain. There’s no reason to keep doing things the old way. We need to put in monitoring systems, we need to work with start-ups and tech entrepreneurs that know our needs, challenges and opportunities but leave it to themselves to find creative solutions. How this has happened in the tech world is though the development of sources of high risk capital from angels and venture capitalists. And while there is a burgeoning interest in ag and food most of the attention has been on the precision ag tools in commodity crops and recently in alternative/faux meat or in food delivery systems. Almost no venture capital is coming in to the poultry, livestock and aquaculture space. We as an industry need to do something about this. We need to support, partner with, invest in and generally help to foster the growth of a start-up community and the development of venture capital to drive the digital revolution we must have if we want to continue the growth we have enjoyed for so long.