By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
TWIN FALLS, Idaho -- Officials with Alltech urged livestock producers to stay curious and embrace technology when it comes to feeding the animals that will feed a growing world during the company's annual lecture tour on Tuesday.
The global animal health and nutrition company is aggressively pursuing innovative avenues to meet the protein needs of a growing global population, which is predicted to exceed 9 billion by 2050.
Animal agriculture will be challenged to produce more animal protein with the same amount of feed, and the way to do that is through innovative nutrition that takes advantage of an animal's genetic potential, said Jim Bannerman, Alltech's director of national accounts.
He urged producers to release their inner curiosity toward science and innovation when it comes to meeting the growing food demands of the world. He also asked them to think about the cow in Wisconsin that produces 72,000 pounds of milk annually, compared with a U.S. average annual production of 23,000 pounds.
Alltech is working on harnessing latent genetic potential that could produce higher quality food and more product per animal, using tools like nutrigenomics that uses nutrients to activate some genes and deactivate others, he said.
Alltech is also researching alternative feeds, such as algae. There are hundreds of thousands of strains of algae, and some are a good source of protein and essential fatty acids, that could be used for livestock and fish feed, he said.
Algae grows rapidly, and one acre of algae can produce the same amount of protein in a year as 21 acres of soybeans or 49 acres of corn, according to Alltech's website.
"We think algae is going to be the future," he said. "We don't know where it can take us."
Alltech is also looking at algae to meet the human needs of Omega 3 fatty acids, in particular DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are essential for human health and are also likely to have a positive effect on animals. Algae is a good source of DHA and can be fed to animals to get more DHA in food products, such as milk and eggs.
The company's research is finding that bundling two or more technologies gives a different and potentially better result than applying any individual technology, he said.
Change is going to come quicker in agriculture than it has in the past, and the industry will need to adopt the tools that will help increase global food supply and meet their own needs for efficiencies. Producers need to stay curious because that change also means opportunity, he said.
You can't put the genie back in the bottle; technology is there and people need to understand it, he said.
In addition to the need for more food, agriculture is challenged with dropping farm incomes, growing environmental concerns and stagnating yields, said Kyle Raney, Alltech applications fermentation specialist.
"The solutions are going to come from new technologies. There is nothing that will hold us back if we're focusing on efficiencies," he said.
Technology is going to turn problems into opportunity, and producers should stay curious, educate themselves and embrace the future, he said.