We caught up with Cees Jan Hollander, Global Farming Expert at Danone about the complexity around sustainability and the company’s innovation and technology plans.

Cees Jan Hollander - Danone - Animal AgTech Innovation Summit
Cees Jan Hollander, Global Farming Expert, DANONE

What is it about your role at Danone that you enjoy the most?
I am at the very centre of Danone’s agricultural strategy. First, I get the opportunity to co-build with colleagues a resilient strategy for our main categories that have an origin in agriculture. Second, I am also working on the deployment of this strategy with the various farmers across the world. This interaction with farmers is very motivational and I guess, this is what I like the most.

Where do you see the biggest opportunity for innovation at Danone with regards to sustainability, welfare, and health?
The biggest innovation lies in the fact of connection all these areas. Over time we have disconnected the relationship between producing healthy food, from healthy soil and animals. If we can find an innovative way or via innovative solutions to reconnect the cycles in nature it will solve a lot of issues.

What is the most exciting thing Danone is working on currently in regard to innovation and technology? Are you focusing on a particular trend or technology?
There are so many exciting things happening at the moment. In my area of expertise, it is the focus on the reduction of our carbon footprint, how agriculture can help and the development of resilient farming systems. In particularly, focus on the reduction of enteric methane emissions of the ruminants. Besides this we also focus on how to use AI to improve current farming systems but also how to design future systems.

You’ll be sharing your insights on the panel ‘Striking A Balance Between Sustainability, Welfare and Profitability – A Whole-System Approach.’ Can you give us an example of the complexity around sustainability and why it isn’t as straightforward as it may seem?
This is not hard to find and I guess most can relate to these kind of examples as many farmers ask this. First of all, as I mentioned earlier, the current agricultural landscape is highly disconnected from each other. All focusing on top quality, high yields and (hopefully) a good margin. Also when looking in the farm itself. For example, the topic of putting cows on pasture for grazing. This is most likely the best welfare to give a cow as they are natural grazers. But it’s simply not doable in many regions of the world. Plus for the reduction of the enteric methane emissions it would be better to keep them indoors and fed a corn diet. So there is a tension here. What we need looking forward is to use innovation to find solutions on the farm that can deliver the best animal welfare outcomes and the best climate outcomes. Another example is the focus on high productivity per cow. It makes sense for profitability, but what about the low longevity of these animals and the fact they eat high quality feed (grains, soya, etc) that could have been used directly by humans?

What connections are important for you to make at the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit, and how does connection and partnership benefit your own organisation and the industry at large?
First, I am always curious and keen to know what the sentiment of all connections is here. What are the latest innovations, which start-ups got capital injections and what are the other questions the audience has. As an industry we have to work together so finding the right partnerships is crucial.

We’re excited to welcome Cees to the virtual summit in October – join his panel discussion on ‘Striking A Balance Between Sustainability, Welfare and Profitability – A Whole-System Approach’ on October 20 at 13.00 CEST. Plus, he’ll also be hosting a roundtable debate on ‘Combining Nature and Technology for Optimum-Performing Cows’ on October 19 at 14.10 CEST.

For more information about Danone, visit Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.