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Sustainability, new investors to drive innovation in beef industry

Debibishop/iStock/Getty Images beef cattle cow-calf pair in grass
Rabobank says focus on and opportunities for innovation in larger livestock supply chains are growing.

Increasing awareness of the need to improve environmental and social outcomes, together with a growing appetite from investors in animal protein, are creating new opportunities and growth in cattle innovation.

Livestock industries – in particular extensive operations – have not always had the same focus from investors that some of the other agricultural industries received. According to Rabobank, this seems to be changing, and the focus on and opportunities for innovation in larger livestock supply chains are growing.

“We believe that research and innovation in the beef industry will continue to evolve but we are currently enabled by two main catalysts that will stimulate this further. Firstly, new investors in the space and secondly, the sustainability drive that not only seeks production improvements but also creates wider community interest in driving improvements, which in itself generates investor interest,” said Angus Gidley-Baird, senior analyst of Animal Protein at Rabobank.

New investment is flowing into agriculture, including entrepreneurs, venture capital, and established companies that are already committed to animal protein supply chains. When F&A started attracting the interest of venture capital about a decade ago, most investments were made in cropping, but the signs of investor interest shifting a little toward animal protein supply chains are starting to emerge.

“But it’s not just venture capital seeking out research and innovation in livestock. The increasing societal concerns surrounding the environment are motivating leading companies to invest heavily in research that will help produce better environmental outcomes. These social and environmental motivators, we believe, will stimulate innovation in livestock and provide incentives beyond the traditional economic multipliers,” explained Gidley-Baird.

While many new innovations exist across the beef industry, Rabobank has identified the ones believed to create the most impact on the industry.

  • Maximizing the potential of genetics, genomics and breeding. Unlocking advances in genetics and genomics has the ability to address many of the problems in the industry, from improving eating quality to reducing environmental footprints to increasing productivity.
  • Improved nutrition and feed additives. A shorter-term solution to managing issues like enteric methane production and increasing productivity.
  • Improved monitoring and data analysis. Wearable devices are slowly coming of age, with improved sensors, functionality, telematics, and battery life. Early detection of animal health issues, physical monitoring of cattle movements, including virtual fencing, monitoring of feed and rumination, and in-field and remote weighing, are just some of the areas of potential for wearable devices.
  • Landscape management. Better integrating livestock into the landscape and managing nutrient run-off and vegetation removal can lead to environmental benefits but also create productivity benefits.
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