Published on Dec. 29, 2016

Johan van Arendonk on Innovation

Johan van Arendonk weighs in on the role of RandD in the layer industry.

Johan van Arendonk, Director of Research and Development, has recently joined the team with thirty years of experience at the Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in various positions in the field of animal breeding and genomics, including Professor and Head of the Animal Breeding and Genomics Center. In this article, Johan shares his perspective on Sustainability in the Layer industry and how we will plan for the future with the input of the customer in mind.

Throughout my career, I have always been focused on advancing “Science for Impact” in the field of animal breeding and genomics. To me, I am part of a company that uses the latest scientific insights to make an important positive impact on the industry. Within the R&D department, sustainable profits for the customer is a high priority while simultaneously guiding the breeding program with the future needs of the industry in mind. To continue to improve our products, feedback from our customers and ongoing investment in research and development are the two most important areas of focus.

Regional Approach – Paired with our Global Vision

When breeding for the layer industry, it is important to recognize the diversity in different regions from around the world. This means that creating sustainable profits is related to different traits based on regional conditions.

Our focus for all regions is on ensuring that our hens can produce 500 first quality eggs with a higher feed conversion efficiency by 2020. But we have the ability to tailor our products to specific regional needs. For example, while a bird suitable for a cage free environment may be important for one market, robustness may be the key for another.

Johan van Arendonk colleague HG

Breeding is long-term, and the breeding choices we make need to be forward thinking

Johan van Arendonk colleague HG
Johan van Arendonk
Director of Research and Development

To successfully develop birds with these traits, we measure every possible phenotype from the feed they consume to their behavior and their health status. For example, if we want birds that can convert poorer quality feeds, then we observe and record their reaction to lower-quality feeds.

We use these observations with state-of-the art genomic testing to better understand and exploit the biology behind the good performers. This combination of phenotypic and genotypic testing allows us to effectively breed the best layer.

Looking to the Future

Breeding is long-term, and the breeding choices we make need to be forward thinking. Because of this, we make sure that we have a good look—and the right look—at the future of the animal protein industry. Regular contact with customers is important to get timely feedback on our products and to form our vision of future needs. For example, transitioning our birds to a cage free environment is one of the important issues that we are currently studying and planning for as well as the elimination of the practice of culling day-old male chicks.

By fostering the connection to our customers and collaborating with industry and research partners, the R&D department aims to intelligently utilize our resources to make a positive impact within the industry.