Imagine a world where livestock producers have all the expertise and resources they need for decision making right at the farmhouse kitchen table.
This is a concept rapidly gaining steam as animal agriculture evolves to meet heightened demands in the wake, not only of a global pandemic, but of many fundamental changes over the past decade — from new rules and regulations to higher transparency and sustainability expectations, along with shifting consumer preferences.
As innovative new models rise to the forefront to help producers make a successful transition to the future, many of those gaining popularity feature a greater emphasis on cutting-edge science, strategies and technologies, streamlined operations approaches and enhanced collaboration at all levels. But perhaps most significant is a much stronger focus on the farm itself as the foundation of opportunity and — coupled with this — a return to the farmers’ kitchen table, whether in person or virtual, as the place where the important conversations and decisions take place.
“The farm remains the heart of where value is created in agriculture,” says J. Neil Dobson, co-founder of FarmHouse Consultants Inc., a newly launched Manitoba-based company on the front line of advancing this concept. “We have been reminded of this during the pandemic as people appreciate more than ever the value of a reliable, high-quality food supply. Yet somewhere along the way many of the conversations and decisions in agriculture got shifted away from the primary producer. They took place at the corporate boardroom table rather than the farm’s kitchen table. We’re seeing a big push now among many farmers to reverse that.”
Driving progress for the primary producer
The shift back to farm focused decision-making has been driven in part by the increasing responsibilities of individual farming operations, which today more than ever find themselves on the frontline of managing many new pressures and expectations. They need greater control and support to make the best decisions that address multiple needs and also keep production-sustaining profits flowing. They also need to keep up to date with identifying and taking advantage of new technologies critical to staying competitive.
Dobson and partner Patrick Hague established FarmHouse to offer a fresh approach to bringing the world’s best knowledge, technologies and resources direct to farm. After laying a strong foundation over recent months, the duo formalized their partnership on June 5, 2020. Building on the FarmHouse team’s extensive background and experience, their main initial focus is on the swine and poultry industries.
Championing innovation, simplified framework
Highlights of key in-demand services during the current phase for FarmHouse include nutrition consulting and utilizing the new wave of advanced feed technologies rapidly gaining traction —for example in swine and poultry, the new Yeast Bioactives and MCFA (medium chain fatty acids) technologies. “The producers we work with are finding that feed and nutrition strategies are a big difference maker — bigger than ever before because of the higher level of knowledge and technologies available, along with developments such as the shift away from mainstream usage of antibiotics,” says Dobson.
Broad expansion potential
The model established by FarmHouse has broad expansion potential across livestock sectors, supporting a wide variety of production needs. “Our approach uses the analogy of a target,” says Hague. “The bulls-eye represents the farm. Each concentric ring represents the layers of resources, in order of importance, that we can help bring to the farm through quality and reliable sources we have already vetted. Our client always has the final say on which resources to include, while we are there to help guide them through the process and connect them with the best options. We provide a streamlined point of contact and delivery. Everything is aligned to ensure our clients are profitable.”
Bringing in additional collaborators is a key component of the model, says Hague. “We are a very inclusive group. Our clients’ sustainability drives all of our efforts. We have no hesitation in involving any individual or group that will contribute to our client’s success. In fact, it’s a core part of what we do and how we bring value.”
Building a strong future
The drive toward supporting decisions on-farm has further accelerated in recent months, only gaining even more momentum in a world facing increased challenges. FarmHouse as part of the vanguard of this trend has seen accelerated growth across Canada and into the U.S. midwestern and eastern regions. “We have seen a perfect storm with a silver lining,” says Hague. “Farmers are facing rising pressures, challenges and increased complexity across the board. However, by bringing the best information and options to their kitchen table in a simplified framework, we can help them make the right decisions for their farm more easily and effectively, to not just survive but actually do better than ever before in the new environment.”
This approach gives farmers the benefits of an extensive team and network combined with maximum flexibility and customization to quickly and easily access the level of support needed for the right fit at the right time. “The needs of livestock operations have never been more dynamic and fluid,” says Dobson. “The model of today needs to be one that is nimble and light on its feet to adjust to fast-changing variables.” FarmHouse is a leading example of a company that is helping farmers achieve that sweet spot, with the support of collaborators and an expanding customer base. “As we re-establish our footing in agriculture there is a lot of reason to be optimistic about the future.”