Rapid global population growth and increasing demand from emerging countries for animal protein presents significant challenges to the livestock and dairy industries. Most significant is the need to meet this growing demand while delivering on ambitious goals in animal health, welfare and sustainability.
Ahead of the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit (Amsterdam, October 1-2) two leading investors share their insights on the importance of the livestock sector delivering global protein needs as well as looking at new areas of innovation and disruption.
How important is the livestock sector in delivering future global protein needs, and how does the sector need to evolve to meet this demand sustainably?
JS: Despite the hype around plant-based proteins, looking ahead it will be the livestock industry that provides the vast majority of the world’s future protein needs. Change will be needed in a way the livestock industry produces protein to increase productivity, improve sustainability and meet animal welfare standards to ensure its future success.
MH: The planet’s demand for protein is so high that we can’t afford to diminish any source of protein, although we know the growing middle-class population generally demands meat as its preferred source of protein, with source also driven in part by religious principles. In terms of digestive availability and the forms of various nutrients, the livestock sector will remain critical to meeting the needs of human nutrition. For example, consider manganese, an essential nutrient that is critical for bone health. Human absorption and retention of manganese is far better through meat than other sources. Also, livestock, especially ruminants, can convert feedstuffs that are indigestible for humans into high-quality protein.
What innovation is emerging to improve efficiency in livestock production? What new areas of innovation and disruption will we see over the next 5-10 years?
JS: Improving the management of animal health and welfare, specific and remote management of outdoor livestock herds, and integrating the whole supply chain into virtual quality management systems are all important frontiers of opportunity for animal protein in the coming years.
MH: Innovations to improve efficiency include novel feedstuffs, digestive enhancements (probiotics or direct-fed microbials, for example), and better disease prevention. Also, genetic selection and improvement, better management of forages and grains to increase the feed available for livestock without reducing availability for people, better vaccines, and disease treatments that not only result in survival of the animal, but which maintain productivity. We also should expect improved diagnostics such as digital sensors, real-time monitoring and sophisticated data analytics. These emerging technologies may someday offer producers the ability to respond to an animal’s needs at the optimal time with the optimal solution strategy.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to sustainable growth in the livestock, poultry and aquaculture industries?
JS: The biggest opportunity I see right now for sustainable growth is to link consumers to the production systems that are being used in animal protein. A growing number of consumers want to know where their food comes from, and how animals are cared for, but right now too much of the readily accessible information for consumers comes from industry critics.
MH: One opportunity – or perhaps challenge? – relates to balancing the ever-shifting consumer preferences with the producers’ ability to deliver high quality, sustainably produced, and healthy foods. The industry has a responsibility to respond to ill-informed consumer trends with practical education and to help consumers appreciate what is truly sustainable in the fullest sense of the word. That is considerate of the environment, caring for the welfare of the animal and capable of generating a livelihood for the producer. We have to find the sweet spot of equilibrium, whether on questions of antibiotics in animal welfare, safety of genetic modifications or other areas of consumer and producer focus.
Both investors are speaking at the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit in Amsterdam on Wednesday October 2 with Justin delivering a Keynote Address on ‘Opportunities for Sustainable Livestock Farming in Europe’ and Michael is speaking on the panel ‘Investor Debate – Key Summit Takeaways and Predictions for Animal Agtech in 2020 & Beyond.’