Tell us about the Trouw business in Ireland

We are an all-island business, employing 60 people, with turnover split equally north and south. Our business is centred on nutritional solutions for ruminants, pigs and poultry and our nutritionists work both with compounders and direct with farmers.

I took over as general manager for Ireland in February 2021.

Trouw is a Nutreco company, which is owned by SHV, a privately owned Dutch business that employs over 50,000 people worldwide.

Give us an insight into the feed industry

The business environment is competitive, and that competition keeps the company innovative.

We recently invested £2m in our Belfast feed mill to allow further growth and make us fit for the future. It mainly involved increased production capacity, to include specialist bagging and mixing equipment.

What are the main short-term challenges?

There is a lot of talk about industry sustainability at the moment, but the starting point has to be financial sustainability, and especially of our farmers and our input suppliers out to the end of Quarter 1 of 2022. There is no point having a five-year sustainability strategy without thinking about year one.

Are your costs going up?

The inflationary pressure is unprecedented and coming from everywhere at present, whether haulage, labour, commodities. Demand and supply will eventually come into balance, but it is hard to see much change before the end of Q1 in 2022. In the past few weeks, we have had a number of suppliers apply force majeure price increases (price rises outside of agreed contracts).

How does the industry respond?

In the past, the industry would have built stock in response to uncertainty, but it is very difficult, if not impossible, to do that right now.

As a feed industry we have to work together this winter to keep feed flowing through the system. We all need to collaborate and act as one, perhaps as never before.

The trade is competing with retailers to pharmaceutical, to get a share of shipping. It is tight at the minute, and all it will take will be a bad weather event to impact on availability of raw materials.

The situation is fragile, and it might get even more fragile.

What are some of the longer-term challenges?

I look around and there are some industry greats, but they are nearing retirement, and behind them there is a talent gap. We have work to do to encourage young people into our feed industry, and then ensure that the experience is passed on.

What is Trouw doing around environmental issues?

Methane gets a lot of the headlines, and we are working on solutions, but right now we can immediately address some of those sustainability factors through improved animal health.

It is about animals getting the best possible start, and then ensuring the animal performs over its lifetime – these animals have lower carbon emissions.

There is also a lot of talk in the industry about data and using it to make decisions. Data is great, but insight is even better.

The opportunity is to provide the farmer with intelligent data tools whereby they can input their figures, and the system will spit out an analysis that is easy and quick to interpret. We hope to bring forward some solutions in the near future.

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