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Alltech’s ONE Conference Back in Person, and Virtually, To Explore Science, Sustainability and Storytelling – INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVES

Source: Alltech via Feedinfo

17 May 2022 – After two years of going solely digital, Alltech’s flagship annual ONE Conference is back this year to continue exploring science, sustainability and storytelling as both an in-person event in Lexington, Kentucky and a virtual one.

Now in its 38th year, the Alltech ONE Conference (ONE) brings together voices from inside and outside the agri-food sector, offering attendees the opportunity to explore industry challenges and solutions that span agriculture, animal nutrition, business, health and wellness, and professional development.

This year’s ONE is also the first that will feature both an in-person and a digital conference running side by side, offering attendees the option to live-stream keynote speakers and view selected presentations on-demand.

In this Industry Perspectives, we chat to Alltech’s CEO and President, Dr. Mark Lyons – who is also a keynote speaker at ONE – about the ideas and themes that the conference will explore, why continuing with a virtual event was so vital, the importance of listening to thought leaders from outside the agri-food industry, and how the company’s Planet of Plenty initiative is supporting ONE and Alltech’s sustainability ambitions.

[Feedinfo] This will be the 38th ONE conference. What do you think is the key to the event’s longevity?

Dr. Mark Lyons

CEO & President

 [Dr. Mark Lyons] I think one of the big elements is the fact that we are continuously evolving, every year is a little bit different. We are always thinking about things that are going on around the world and outside of the agri-food industry, and how those things can impact us.

But there is also the incredible networking. The conference strikes that balance of being a truly global event – where we typically have over 70 countries and over 3500 attendees present – and a time when some of the most innovative and progressive individuals within our sector can talk and share new ideas.

We have also continually delivered top class talent in terms of our speakers. This year we have over 100 and we pushed them to think differently and to present information that might be unusual. We did the same for our internal speakers, so what we present at the ONE is unique and what we have been building towards throughout the year. So, be it new research or ideas, every presentation will be fresh.

Also, one of the things we always strive for at ONE is to connect with the head and the heart. So, there is always a sense of positivity and energy around event, and I think that is something that really appeals to people.


[Feedinfo] What are the major themes that you will be exploring at this year’s ONE? What are some of the ideas that you are particularly excited about?

[Dr. Mark Lyons] I think the fact that we have not been in person in a couple of years is something that is going to be very exciting. There is an energy that is palpable as we re-congregate and come together to connect. And so, I think, collaboration and collaborative opportunities, which are things that in person contact favors, are going to be big themes.

And of course, we're going to be thinking about how the world has changed. We know that many of the trends that we came into the pandemic with have continued, in particular sustainability. So, we are going to talk a lot about how the status quo is not enough. We have to be doing more and doing things that are truly positive for our planet. At the same time we also need to think about how we communicate all the positives that agriculture can provide for our planet to not just policymakers and our own industry, but also to consumers themselves.

It is going to be really exciting to explore all of this in the sustainability, the science, and of course, the storytelling, which is such an important element of the ONE conference.

[Feedinfo] You are running both an in-person event and a virtual event this year. When the world is beginning to shake off Covid, what led to this decision? How do the two events compare in terms of exploring “sustainability, science, and storytelling”?

[Dr. Mark Lyons] The idea was that we would be able to access an audience that I don't think we even realized was out there. When we typically have the conference in person, as I mentioned, we have about 70 countries and around 3500 attendees present. So, when we went virtual in 2020 and again in 2021, we actually reached around 10,000 people and over 100 countries, and we thought it necessary to continue connecting with this group.

We will have a few areas where the two conferences will interweave, and we will connect the two. What we really enjoyed with the virtual conference was the fact that people could get to every single talk, whereas people attending the event may not be able to get to all the sessions. So, we decided to film four of the talks from every track (of which there are 12, ranging from aqua, beef and dairy to crop science, business, and health and wellness) so they can be accessed afterwards.


[Feedinfo] Looking at the conference speakers, a lot of them are from outside the agri-food industry. Why is it so important for the industry to hear from these voices too? What can they teach us?

[Dr. Mark Lyons] I think right now, perhaps more than ever before, it is really crucial to be thinking about bringing people in from outside our sector who we maybe don't interact with. We can sometimes end up rehashing the same arguments and discussions, stopping us from developing fresh ideas and thoughts. That is one of the reasons we've always reached out to interesting individuals and had speakers like General Colin Powell, Steve Wozniak, Alan Mulally, others grace the ONE stage. And this year is no different. We wanted to make sure that we brought in those outside ideas and voices, thought leaders, and people who can really influence our thinking.

And at the same time, we also see this as a two-way opportunity. For example, someone I felt really needed to speak at the event and be in the room with us in Kentucky was Mick Ebeling, the founder and CEO of technology incubator, Not Impossible Labs. And the same with Paul Polman, who was the CEO of Unilever for over 10 years and brought them through a process of focusing the business around purpose. Having both these influential individuals from outside our industry physically with us allows us to show them the world of agriculture and Alltech, and to influence them, to a certain degree.

The impact we can have on these thought leaders, and the longer-term relationships we can build with them, has always been a big element of ONE. Networking and building those relationships, I think, helps keep us on our toes and think differently.

[Feedinfo] What is your Planet of Plenty initiative and how does it support ONE conference and Alltech’s own sustainability strategies?

[Dr. Mark Lyons] In 2019, the last time we had an in-person event, we launched the Planet of Plenty idea and it was built upon the legacy of my father, our founder, Dr. Pearse Lyons. In the late 1980s, he talked about the ACE principle (Animal, Consumer, Environment), emphasizing the importance of delivering benefit to animals, consumers and the environment.

So those elements are part of Alltech’s DNA and this vision of working together for a planet of plenty is something we wanted to introduce to help the agri-food industry think about a system change to make sure that we can overcome the challenges of today and tomorrow.

It has become clearer and more evident that we need to make changes within agriculture and that we need to invest in regenerative agriculture. How do we make this happen? What are the opportunities? Those are going to be big areas of discussion within ONE and it is going to be really exciting to hear the interactions and see what can come out of the conference.

[Feedinfo] Earlier you mentioned the industry also needing to think about how to communicate all the positives it can provide for our planet to consumers. Looking at animal ag, do you think it has done a good job of highlighting its sustainability achievements to consumers and stakeholders? How are ONE and Planet of Plenty highlighting the industry’s achievements to those outside the industry?

[Dr. Mark Lyons] You just have to look at the recent Earth Day and the amount of misinformation on social media about agriculture’s impact on the environment. We know that there is an impact, but at the same time there are a lot of very progressive producers who are looking at new ways of producing food. Yet the agriculture industry tends to be scapegoated and vilified.

We want to use this positive moment of the ONE conference, which is the most international event in Kentucky, to bring in the local community, because communicating directly with those consumers is important.

But we also have to think of other vehicles of doing this. One of the ideas that we want to discuss at the ONE is how do we as an industry come together. So often we see different parts of the industry and different sectors competing with each other, and that can fracture our messaging. There is so much that can bring us together and help us communicate to consumers in a different way.

At the same time, I think, having outside speakers join us at the ONE conference and talking to people that they possibly would not have connected with in the past, means that they leave the conference knowing more about us and our stories and can share them with other audiences. And that is an important element that I think will help us have an impact too.

We're also looking for different ways to collaborate and will be launching a new Planet of Plenty website at ONE. We're going to be linking that to other groups who are also thinking about and presenting the facts surrounding the positives that agriculture has achieved and communicating this in a clear way to consumers.

For more on Alltech's ONE Conference, head here.


Published in association with Alltech