Trouw Nutrition, Nutreco’s animal nutrition division, is doubling its network of validation farms, from six to 12 farms. New validation farms are being added in Latin America, Canada, Spain and the Netherlands. Bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and actual farm practices, validation farms demonstrate the efficacy of novel products, programs, and services in different climates and production environments under commercial circumstances.
Complementing research conducted at Trouw Nutrition facilities and with partner universities, farm validation trials partner with local farmers to evaluate solutions in context with varying climate conditions and production constraints. Researchers evaluate how factors such as genetics, weather conditions, housing, management and health status impact the efficacy of nutritional solutions.
“Validation farms support crucial and local trials that enable us to verify the practical efficacy and applicability of our innovations,” said Coen Smits, R&D director at Trouw Nutrition. The results and feedback of the farmer’s user experience provides local operating companies with evidence-based insights that are highly relevant to local markets. With some minor adaptations at the farms, training of the farm employees, close supervision, and simple study protocols, we can conduct studies that are scientifically sound and have good statistical power to draw clear conclusions.”
A model for farmer-driven research tailored to local challenges
When it comes to trusting the efficacy of a product, program, or service, livestock farmers in markets around the globe want proven models that reflect local production challenges. Trouw Nutrition’s global research centers collaborate with operating companies to invest in long-term partnerships with regionally representative commercial farms. Investments in infrastructure support the design and implementation of scientifically sound trials. Operating companies share trial data to support local market staff and their farmer customers. Combining findings from validation farms supports the global value of products, programs and services. The validation approach is borne of nearly three decades of experience proving the value of customer-centric research.
“We show our customers, which in our market are often big integrators, that we are focused on their needs. We share the results with customers as soon as we have them,” said Renald Mercier, agr., business manager for swine and poultry in Eastern Canada.
Trouw Nutrition Canada started using validation farm projects in the early 1990s. Partnerships were set up with several swine farms including, breeding, nursery and grow-finish units. A coast-to-coast testing farm network was setup to execute multi-location studies. Multi-location trials are extremely powerful due to number of replicates and the different housing, feeds, health and genetics used in each site to compare the same treatments.
After trials were completed, results were shared with other regions in Canada and the validation farm network became part of Research & Development to further strengthen the project. “Proven solutions are the foundation of the way we do business,” said Mercier.
Farm Data Integration drives solutions
Farm Data Integration (FDI) strives to power Trouw Nutrition’s animal feed business with data driven solutions in feed, farm, and health management, according to Benny van Haandel, Farm Data Integration manager at Trouw Nutrition.
“The validation farm project will bundle data per region or customer segment, to provide validation results that match the customer’s circumstances better and are as such more valuable,” he explained.
FDI is a digital platform that structures data collection and makes it available for central monitoring and analysis. FDI plans to connect more technology, software systems and sensors across the main species – dairy, beef swine, layers and broilers. These systems will integrate with validation packages to efficiently track and trace animals or animal groups by treatments and make validation trials more accessible.
New techniques, including machine learning, will be applied to make more detailed advice possible. A widespread network of validation sites helps inform specific practices related to timing and dosing that apply in varied environments. “At the end, there is nothing more valuable than helping a client make decisions based on data from their region or their own data,” said van Haandel.