Richard Kennedy, CEO of leading animal nutrition company Devenish, gives some background into trading worldwide within the farming and food sector, and the company’s philosophy of ‘one health – from soil to society’.
What are the main drivers of change within the animal nutrition industry?
Sustainability is without doubt the main driver and everything must now move towards this goal. We all need to ensure that we are not taking decisions or making choices, which will have a negative impact in the future – because at the end of the day, the industry will be held accountable.
What does the strategy of ‘one-health from soil to society’ encompass?
Our strategy focuses on the importance of optimising nutrient utilisation across soil, plant, animal, environment and human health, which are key and interlinked components of the value chain from farm to consumer.
“We all need to ensure that we are not taking decisions or making choices, which will have a negative impact in the future.”
Your biggest concern and how could it be alleviated?
My biggest concern is that people from within the food value-chain will view sustainability as an ‘us and them’ debate whether as feed manufacturers, farmers, processors, retailers or consumers, who may only perceive it as such. The consumer will make his or her choice. However, the value-chain that brings the food to the consumer must collaborate, as collaboration is key to sustainability.
How important has innovation been in helping the business grow?
Innovation has been the cog in the wheel at the centre of everything that we do and has been critical to the growth of the business. If we hadn’t been an innovative company, we wouldn’t have evolved or developed to the position we are in now. We strive to innovate in every single facet and fibre of our business, from products to engagement with our customers and partners. It’s about how we engage with the market on a macro level. It’s also about how and what we address within the marketplace that we see – and ultimately to where we can help deliver returns for both ourselves and our customers.
“My biggest concern is that people from within the food value-chain will view sustainability as an ‘us and them’ debate.”
Your ambition in Devenish and how you are going to reach it?
Our ambition in Devenish is to build this into a global business and how we are going to achieve it is by giving people within Devenish the opportunity and the environment to express their ability to the maximum.
What attributes have been important in your business journey?
The most important attributes are a willingness to change, an appetite for learning and a determination to deliver and the courage to take those things on.
“Innovation has been the cog in the wheel at the centre of everything that we do and has been critical to the growth of the business.”
Internationally who do you admire in business and why?
In the US, I really admire Donnie Smith, who is a former chief executive of Tyson Foods and widely acknowledged as a leader, endowed with a tremendous sense of humility. For me that happens to be the single most important aspect, as without doubt if you have that humility, you enable everyone around you. He travelled up through the ranks of that business and some years ago, I was fortunate to hear him speak at a Tyson poultry conference in Arkansas.
What’s the best business advice you ever received?
You don’t always get what you pay for – but you always pay for what you get.
Interview by Brendan Byrne.