For the first time in more than 110 years of De Heus Animal Nutrition history, on October 13th the 10-millionth ton of animal feed in a year was produced in one of its factories. And by the end of this year, they will have reached a figure of over 12 million tons. An excellent opportunity for a conversation with its CEOs Co & Koen de Heus, on this milestone and on their drive and ambition.
What makes 10 million tons of animal feed produced worth mentioning?
Co de Heus: We have produced 10 million tons of animal feed, premixes and concentrates this year – and by the end of the year it will be more than 12 million tons. This has never happened in the history of our company. And the amazing thing is, it happens on our father’s 80th birthday. But of course this milestone has never been our actual goal. Which is why we say it’s more than just a number. It’s the result of every effort we’ve made over the past decade to increase our contribution towards healthy, safe and affordable food for a growing world population. We’ve committed ourselves to this for more than a hundred years. We are proud to work alongside our producers of meat, fish, milk and eggs, helping them to improve their businesses and bringing progress to the sector.
Koen de Heus: It’s also a great moment to look towards the future and contemplate how this milestone relates to our mission as a company. But before we do that, I think it would be appropriate to take a moment to realize that this milestone occurs when so much is going on in the world around us. We are seeing major political and societal problems globally, and some of the countries we operate in are struggling with war, food shortages, protests and more. We are proud of our colleagues – whether they work at our business units around the world or the head office in Ede – who deal with the challenges we face from all this turmoil. It’s impressive to see employees working together to solve problems and to ensure that we can continue to play our prominent part in our food supply chains. As Co already mentioned, it’s not the 10 million tons that strikes us, because that’s just a number. It’s the realization that this is a result of decades of efforts in contributing to livestock and aquaculture farming right around the world. It’s quite an adventure we’ve been through, from the feed mill in Barneveld – where we spent so much time during our youth – to the company we have become today. And that’s what makes this milestone into something that we and all our colleagues in the company can be so very proud of.
What did De Heus celebrated that day?
Co de Heus: It’s impossible to look back at the contribution we’ve made in the past decade without considering all the stories behind those activities. I believe that our local presence around the world, being close to farmers, and being able to help and support them, is the definitive key to our success. Did you know that every day De Heus employees visit thousands of farms? It’s that local presence that has enabled us to grow towards having a global impact. That’s what we’re celebrating today.
Koen de Heus: Exactly. That’s why we are so proud of all the employees who have become part of the De Heus family over the years. They are the ones who, together with our customers and other stakeholders, help us to achieve our sustainable contribution to the availability of food for everyone.
What do you believe is the secret behind 111 years of existence and achieving this milestone?
Co de Heus: Values like heritage and stewardship have been critical to the family from the very start of our business in 1911. We have always adhered to the conviction that you must cherish what you have and take care of your business and its heritage, while keeping an eye on the future. It’s also essential to realize our desire to transfer the company from one family generation to the next.
Koen de Heus: That’s why the ability to keep our activities going for generations to come, means that increasing our feed production sustainably is more important than ever. Because when you look at the current state of the food production chains, of which we are a part as an animal nutrition company, there are enormous challenges that we need to overcome. First, consider all the uncertainties and challenges already mentioned. Then consider the number of people we need to feed in 2050. The world’s population is expected to grow to 9.8 billion over the decades ahead. Providing access to safe, healthy, and especially affordable food is one of the biggest challenges the world faces today.
What challenges arise when providing access to safe, healthy and affordable food?
Koen de Heus: We need to reduce our food production systems’ impact on the climate and the environment, to protect vulnerable ecosystems. To achieve this goal while feeding the world’s growing population, we need to produce food more efficiently to prevent excessive land use change in the near future.
Co de Heus: That’s why we’re so proud of the research we’ve conducted over the past twenty years to improve the feed conversion of our products. Because if we need fewer raw materials to produce the same amount of animal protein, that lets us meet the growing food needs worldwide in the future more sustainably. This is where the feed industry has already achieved significant progress in the food supply systems over the past decades.