Post #2: Collaboration between animal health and feed industries
One of my favorite aspects of serving as a National FFA Officer this year is the time my teammates and I get to spend in meetings with agriculture industry leaders, most often as part of our virtual corporate sponsor visits. These visits give me a chance to take knowledge I've gained about the industry, whether through personal experience on my family's farm, my FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience where I raised and sold purebred dairy cattle, or college experiences such as the GFAI Industry Immersion Tour, and understand how it applies in the broader context of the industry and the influential players in it.
One such visit, with leadership from Merck Animal Health, was heavily focused on systems thinking and how different sectors of the agriculture industry interact with one another. Some of Merck Animal Health's recent acquisitions--from customizable animal monitoring technology to environmental impact measurement tools--are indicative of the increasing collaboration and interconnectedness of the animal agriculture industry. One of the members of their leadership team shared how the animal health industry is no longer just focused on treatment, but also on the holistic process of raising and caring for animals. This idea manifests itself in areas like feed additives, but also points to stronger future ties between the feed industry itself and animal health companies like Merck.
These shifts in mindset from influential agricultural players appear to be coming along parallel to shifts in consumer preferences, where buyers are increasingly interested in the environmental and social impacts of their food production processes. For animal health companies like Merck, it's an opportunity to collaborate with companies farther upstream, like those that process animal feed, to develop stronger lines of communication and ultimately provide more transparency and traceability in the supply chain. For many consumers, it's not enough to know where the animal product itself came from, but they also want to know what that animal's diet was, too. This is apparent with value-added products such as grass-fed beef, or vegetarian-fed chicken; it seems likely that forward-thinking feed companies will have an opportunity to reap more benefits while providing value that consumers desire in even more areas. One example is to identity preserve feed ingredients that came from farms with a focus on soil health, carbon sequestration, or biodiversity. Another is to utilize cover crops or more specialty grains that provide ancillary benefits to ecosystem service markets.
Successful innovation requires meaningful relationships and strong networks; this is exactly what groups like GFAI provide for their members, as do organizations like the FFA. As an FFA member and a beneficiary of GFAI's student programs, I'm excited to stay connected and watch as the industry continues to progress, through increased collaboration between feed and animal health companies and beyond.