Heiner Lehr, Senior Manager PLF at AGCO speaks to Animal AgTech about his first year working with the company and the potential of  precision farming to improve animal welfare. 

Heiner Lehr - Faromatics and AGCO - Animal AgTech
Heiner Lehr, Senior Manager PLF, AGCO

Last year your start-up company Faromatics was acquired by AGCO – how have you enjoyed your first year being part of the AGCO group?
We have been received with very open arms by AGCO. It’s great to meet so many gifted colleagues and prepare a global product offering that will make a real difference in the livestock industry. Thanks to AGCO, we are now developing several exciting products in parallel – our team is thrilled! We also appreciate that AGCO respects our somewhat different process and way of working and we have spent the year gently settling into a larger organisation.

AGCO has recently put a lot of focus into how their solutions can improve animal welfare, why has this been such a key area for AGCO?
AGCO decided even before the acquisition that animal welfare was one of its only four sustainability pillars. For this reason, AGCO also established its Animal Welfare Panel made up from internationally renowned industry experts from academia, production and standardisation. The focus on animal welfare for us has always been the realisation that focussing on the exactly right environment for the animal is opening up the next level of performance increases in the livestock industry.

For you, what is the potential for precision technology to improve animal welfare?
In Germany, a study has shown that the bottom 25% of poultry farmers makes 13 times less profit on their operation than the top 25%. Management of the farm and avoidance of production errors are key to that difference. Precision technology puts numbers to feelings – no more ‘I think I have seen a few bad droppings this morning, but I don’t remember how many’. Acting fast, when the problem arises is good for the animal, for the farmer and for the sustainability of livestock farming.

How have improvements in animal welfare had an impact on animal productivity and health?
Animal welfare has been perceived by the farming community as yet another imposed obligation – but in reality, the interests of the animal and that of the farmer are completely aligned. Providing a perfect environment in which the animal can develop really well also yields excellent productivity results. We are seeing cases of >20% savings in electric energy consumption, improvements of 6% in feed conversion and 8% better overall productivity with a much-reduced variability in results of different flocks.

At the summit, you’ll be speaking on a panel titled ‘Digital Innovation: Maximising the Outcomes of Precision Farming’ – what are you looking forward to discussing in this session?
We would like to discuss examples of how digital technology and precision livestock farming help farmers and integrators discover and remove production bottlenecks. Although precision livestock farming has been around for a while, we are now seeing a real focus in the industry to assist producers to help the animals and help themselves. Higher performance and less variability mean that the livestock business becomes more predictable – less headaches for the producers. And young farmers, digital natives, of course demand digital services – guaranteeing that we will continue to have livestock farming. We’d also like to hear from participants about other emerging technologies or even issues that are not yet addressed by technology – paint the picture of how precision livestock farming is emerging now as an incredible support technology for the sector.

Meet the AGCO team at the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit in Amsterdam! Heiner will join a panel on ‘Digital Innovation: Maximising the Outcomes of Precision Farming’ on Wednesday October 12 at 13.35pm CEST. The next day, he will also host a roundtable discussion on ‘Addressing Animal Welfare Without Sacrificing Productivity’ at 12.05pm CEST.

For more information about AGCO, check out their website here.