Would investing in science and technology make a difference to your business endurance in these trying times?
Each crisis that the livestock industry goes through, presents challenges and prospects to raise the bar. These ‘black swan’ events force routine decision making into risk analysis mode and a calculated gamble for long term endurance.
We saw this happen when avian influenza hit Asia in 2003, followed by the economic crisis of 2008, then ASF in 2018 and now the Covid-19 pandemic.
With each crunch, there was consolidation and growth, a raising of standards, and a shift towards greater use of technology for precision, food safety, efficiency, and labor challenges, among others. Winners and adopters are still running the race well.
Now we see technology filtering down to consumer level as governments in Asia push for a technology and IOT thrust in business. The animal protein and food industry began embracing technology long since, allowing it at this point now, to deepen and widen its adoption.
In China’s Guandong province, Qianxi Robot Catering Group has opened its first robot restaurant complex with more than 20 in-house developed robots assigned for cooking and food prep. Its 200 available dishes can be served at once to 600 diners in 20 seconds.
Singapore too has put aside over USD 55 million to help local agriculture and aquaculture companies grow. The grant will be available for farming companies targeting resource-efficient and high-yielding production systems.
With the ASF virus challenge, the technology focus is upstream, mainly with vaccines and feed. The UK’s Pirbright Institute announced it is “a step closer” to developing a vital vaccine for ASF. A recent trial emerged with 100% of pigs immunized with the new vaccine surviving a lethal dose of ASF virus.
The institute said its team has developed a vectored vaccine, which uses a non-harmful virus (the vector) to deliver eight strategically selected genes from the ASF virus genome into pig cells. “Our study has shown for the first time that a vectored vaccine against ASF is a realistic possibility,” said Chris Netherton, Head of Pirbright’s ASF Vaccinology Group.
With pig feed, Dr Chaiyapoom Bunchasak from Kasetsart University in Thailand told Asian Agribiz that feeding extracts from chili improved growth without elevating feed intake. “This translates to savings in feed cost and reduced release of nitrogen into the environment. Every 1% reduction in protein means 25-30% reduction in ammonia and nitrogen loads in the environment.”
Digitization of the farm to fork value chain has been progressing. Sierad Produce in Indonesia, after successfully digitizing its poultry farming unit, recently implemented halal-blockchain-technology for traceable chicken processing at its chicken slaughterhouses. Tomy Wattemena, President Director said this was in response to consumer concerns about their health and transparency in food production.
There is currently a strong tendency towards wellness and food safety. Recognizing this, the Paragon Group in Bangladesh has adopted QR codes on their packaging to educate consumers on the safety of their products.
This takes the consumer to video and audio content which discuss the products’ life cycle. Managing Director, Moshiur Rahman told Asian Agribiz that consumers are more sensitive to hygiene and food quality. “If they understand our rearing, genetics and slaughtering practices, they will be motivated to buy our products,” he said.
Robotics is another area that is set to raise efficiency (and reduced contact) in meat processing in Asia. Multivac is ready to support producers in the region. Akbar Febriansyah, Customer Support Manager of Multivac Indonesia said customers have inquired about pick & place robots for their new projects.
“The investment for such technology is high but offers benefits especially food safety and higher productivity and efficiency,” he told Asian Agribiz. “Users of thermoforming machines currently employ many operators to place their sausages into packs. Sooner or later, they will use robots to automate the process.”