Alltech Symposium offers glimpse into future of food production

Alltech Symposium offers glimpse into future of food production

The opening session of the symposium outlined the future of agriculture, including using algae with DHA to farm fish sustainably.

Dr. T. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech, outlined his vision for the future of agriculture at the opening session of the 29th Alltech Symposium in Lexington, Ky. 

He encouraged attendees to activate their greatness and promised to give them tools to do that. 

The first speaker at the symposium, Dr. Damien McLoughlin, University College Dublin, Ireland, told the audience that the first step to greatness is to identify the core of the business. Then put all growth areas into adjacent areas to the core of that business. 

“Your business is dying,” said McLoughlin. “Some businesses such a Kodak, Borders, no longer exist. Chances are that your business is also dying. If your business is not growing, it will slowly die.”

Read more on his plan for growth in, “Find the right growth path for your poultry business in 2013

McLoughlin advised attendees to write six points on the back of their business cards to focus on. 

  1. Understand your core
  2. Discuss your core
  3. First, fully exploit your core
  4. Focus on close adjacencies
  5. Follow your customer
  6. Kick out complexity, grow through repeatability

Dr. Eugenia Wang, University of Louisville, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, told the audience that we are on the boundary of magic, due to our understanding of the human genome and the marriage between life sciences and information technology. 

Angelina Jolie and the current publicity about her preventative measures to avoid cancer are an example of the new decisions facing people based on genomics. 

We are on the eve of a revolution in our understanding of genomics, according to Wang. We used to think that everything in our lives was determined by genetics, that we had little control. We are learning that microRNA can impact the DNA and RNA. Scientists are predicting that you will be able to have genomes sequenced for roughly $1,000, but interpretation is expensive today. That will change in the next few years. 

“People can influence their own microRNA but mostly through diet, such as the standard Mediterranean diet,” says Wang. “A good diet will support the good microRNA and destroy the bad microRNA. By 2020 people [will be able to] find their genome information, and the dream is there will be nutritional intervention that can help slow diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.”

Lyons closed the session, and said he enjoys the opening session because, “This talk forces me to think of where we are going and what we are doing. Today we need trust between the consumer and the food producers.”

He explained the world today has many opportunities, but we have to leave behind old ideas. We need to farm the sea. But we can’t feed the fish with fish meal; we need new sources of DHA. Algae are rich in DHA and can be grown from waste sugar and carbohydrates. “Today Alltech has one of the two factories in the world producing algae with DHA,” said Lyons. “Instead of using fish oil in food for farming fish, we need to use algae with DHA, which will make fish farming sustainable.”

Lyons closed the opening session by explaining that leaders must create a culture that encourages greatness. It’s one of the few things you have that can differentiate you from your competition.