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Gerard Albers, Senior Director of the Hendrix Genetics Research & Technology Centre

Gerard Albers, Chairman Hendrix Genetics Academy

This year Hendrix Genetics opened the doors to its Academy for a second time, welcoming around 90 post-graduate students, research and industry geneticists, lead scientists and industry leaders to enjoy a three day program to connect science and industry in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, the city of light. The theme of this year was “Accelerating the future” and based on four focus areas: breeding the future, creating value in times of change, innovations in breeding and sustainable breeding. 

The entire sector faces the challenge to feed nine billion people by 2050. This requires close cooperation throughout the value chain. Animal genetics has had a key role to play in improving the output of animal production and will continue to do so in the future, but genetics is only part of the solution.  It is a combination of science and business sense that helps the global food sector to create value for consumers and producers alike by improving the productivity and efficiency of animals, with consideration for animal welfare and the long term sustainability of animal protein production.

Breeding the Future

The challenges facing agriculture and the environment for agricultural innovation are far more complex than ever before; the industry must create an innovation system that embraces this complexity. Prof. dr. ir. Ruud Huirne, Director Food & Agri at Rabobank and member of the Topteam Agri & Food in the Netherlands, presented the global themes in the world influencing the Agri & Food business. The four themes are: increase food availability, improve access to food, stimulate balanced nutrition and enhance stability. 

Hendrix Genetics operates breeding programs for poultry, pigs and aquaculture; all working intensively to develop future applications which are incorporating new tools and technologies to further advance product performances, the traditional objective of breeding and R&D programs. Antoon van den Berg, CEO of Hendrix Genetics, shed his light on how Hendrix Genetics invests in innovations which stretch beyond the traditional; innovating its business model by going downstream and by offering new services and solutions to worldwide clients. 

With mind mapping different groups translated the four global themes into innovation options for animal breeding and animal science.


Creating Value in Times of Change

Animal production represents huge value to humanity and increasingly so. In a series of presentations the business and innovation models of different breeding industries were compared. Mr. Servé Hermans, Managing Director of ISA, the Layers Business Unit of Hendrix Genetics, kicked-off this part with explaining the layer breeding business model, a fully closed breeding system. A similar system, the broiler breeding business model was presented by Dr. Mitch Abrahamsen, Vice President R&D of Cobb-Vantress. The open system of dairy cattle breeding model was subject of Mr. Paul Hunt’s presentation, COO of Alta Genetics. To conclude this part Mr. Luc Ozanne, Investment Director at Sofiprotéol, shared his insights on the plant breeding models.

With knowledge and better understanding of the different business models the academy participants engaged in a lively and exciting British Parliament Debate focusing on the impact of an industry’s breeding structure and its IP protection on business models.


Innovations in Breeding

Improvements in animal breeding play a critical role in enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of agricultural production systems. New statistical and molecular technologies in genetics open up a vast array of potential applications. With genomic selection we have only seen the beginning of a new era. What is next?

With reviews of renowned experts on key developments in quantitative and molecular genetics for the next decade we geared up for what the future beholds. Prof. Johan van Arendonk, Wageningen University & Research (WUR) - Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, and Addie Vereijken, Research Geneticist at Hendrix Genetics, started with the field of quantitative genetics technologies. In the second round, Prof. Martien Groenen, WUR - Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre and Michèle Tixier-Boichard of INRA, explored the future in molecular genetics technologies. 

These two rounds of reviews triggered two panel discussions with groups of experts (molecular and quantitative) on the expected technical innovations and how to apply them in the industry. And above all, addressing the question: is science working on the most promising subjects from an industry perspective?


Sustainable Breeding

Sustainability is a true concern to animal breeding since animal breeding can contribute to the major challenges of animal production. Sustainable breeding goes beyond traditional feed conversion selection. Breeding for animal welfare, worldwide management of genetic resources, public health, and food security are all part of the puzzle.

What can animal breeding really do in this field? This part tried to realistically predict what the contributions of breeding could be to the various aspects of sustainability.  Prof. Imke de Boer, WUR - Animal Production Systems, explored the connection between animal production systems and the future of our planet. Followed by a presentation of Dr. Koen Boone of The Sustainability Consortium on sustainability management in practice. 

Director of R&D at Cobb-Vantress, Dr. Mitch Abrahamsen and Dr. Pieter van As of Hendrix Genetics introduced their corporate sustainability program. Based on the input of the different speakers a brainstorm session was initiated on how breeding can contribute to more sustainable animal production, with refreshing insights.

Back in 2018

The participants of this year’s Hendrix Genetics Academy highly valued the program and organization. That means connecting science and industry through interactive knowledge sharing meets a need no other event has identified before; more than enough reason to come back with another edition in 2018.