SEEKING to spur more interest in agricultural careers, Evonik Corp. recently provided college students from around the world with a three-week, all-expenses-paid tour of agricultural facilities throughout the U.S., including processing plants, feed mills, research centers and farms.
The excursion, which was called the North American Ag Trip, was managed by Kerri McGuiness, import products and sales support manager for Evonik North America, and was announced on the Evonik Feed Additives Facebook page in February.
After receiving more than 200 applications via Facebook, the top 60 finalists were invited to attend Assessment Days in Atlanta, Ga., and Hanau, Germany, in May, and 10 of those students were ultimately selected for the trip. The selections were based on written essays, educational achievements and performance in a number of team-building activities.
The 10 finalists, comprised of students from Brazil, Armenia, Zambia, Italy, China, the Philippines and the U.S., represented some of the top academic agricultural programs in the world. The winners were made up of veterinary, food science, animal science and animal and plant nutrition majors.
At kickoff day, held July 15 in Atlanta, Ga., the students were divided into two teams of five, and their destinations were revealed. Students were also asked to provide blogs, videos and photos as they traveled along their routes and to research a couple of current industry topics.
Evonik representatives and partner companies such as Cargill, Fieldale and several others escorted the students along the trip as they flew and drove from city to city to visit the numerous agricultural companies.
Through the cooperation of Evonik's customers, partners and colleagues, the teams experienced a number of hands-on and behind-the-scenes activities that are not normally made accessible to the general public.
The teams also had the opportunity to meet with top executives from some of the major agricultural producers in the world, including Tyson Foods, Koch Foods Pond Hill Dairy and Chick-fil-A Inc.
They also visited major poultry and egg producers like Foster Farms, Gold'n Plump and JS West, as well as Evonik's U.S. manufacturing sites that produce amino acids used in the supplementation of animal diets, primarily in the poultry, swine and dairy industries.
During these plant visits, the college students got the opportunity to learn how amino acids are manufactured, distributed, marketed and used to enhance the nutrient profiles of animal diets.
Upon returning to Atlanta, the teams gave presentations previously assigned to them on "food safety/consumer confidence" and "sustainability in U.S. agriculture."
These topics were researched through interviews during the trip and were combined with online research and statistics. The projects were then presented to Evonik and industry professionals through slideshows and video clips.
"This is a very unique opportunity for students studying agriculture," said Peter Hohl, regional business director of sales and marketing at Evonik Industries AG's Health & Nutrition Business Unit. "Not only does it provide students with an opportunity to tour Evonik sites making feed additives, but it also allows them to gain hands-on experience and unique networking opportunities at various agricultural facilities in the United States."
Alfred Petri, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Evonik's Health & Nutrition Business Unit, added, "Evonik hosted a similar agricultural trip in Europe during August 2012. Ten students visited agricultural facilities and Evonik sites in six countries over three weeks. The program was very successful, and we received great feedback from the students. We wanted to create a similar opportunity in the U.S. For 2014, the China Ag Trip is on our agenda."