Alltech Symposium: Great Debate Examines Change

US – The second day of Alltech's International Symposium ended with the 'Great Debate', during which were discussed the challenges and changes that face the agribusiness sector, writes Chris Wright, senior editor of TheCattleSite.
calendar icon 25 May 2011
clock icon 2 minute read

Aidan Connolly, Vice President of Alltech, was the moderator for the Great Debate event, which is held every year during the symposium. This year, the panelists were: Tom Standage (Business Editor for The Economist in the UK, Ben Self (Blue State Digital in the US) and Hans Jöhr (Corporate Head of Agriculture for Nestlé in Switzerland).

Among the many topics of debate, the panelists were asked: What are the game changers as we move to feed nine billion people?

Mr Standage mentioned that demographic growth and climate change were among the big challenges. However, he also indicated that new technologies exist that will help resolve those problems.

Continuing with the technology theme, Mr Standage indicated that we need to use all the levels of technology available, from high-tech to low-tech. He added using historical examples that it is possible that the technology of the future already exists but it just has not yet been taken seriously.

Hans Johr said that as people live longer, Nestlé has changed its focus from infant nutrition to 'super premium' food for seniors. It is not about individual branding messages but a broader message about preventative nutrition.

Health care systems are bankrupt, therefore, food companies need to have a consumer-focused approach that looks at how to provide nutritious food for an aging population, says Mr Johr.

Ben Self, a media expert, indicated that there are two billion people on line and another two billion that text on their cell phones. This is fantastic opportunity for companies to talk about where food comes from – to get the message directly to the consumer. He is not talking about advertising but rather the chance to explain how companies produce food, and to address sensitive issues.

He said that people are expecting to interact differently with food companies and producers: they want a more personal, transparent interaction. Technology has to be used to engage the public. Mr Self concluded by saying: "Do it now, do it later or die out".

Further Reading

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