We can be proud of our innovation – even where we least expect it

Being a cynical producer at heart, innovation strikes me as a watered-down and overused buzzword for the global tech companies of the 21st century.

I have recently returned from a trip to Hoima, Uganda, where I witnessed true innovation first-hand. To put Ugandan pig production in context, it produces approximately 3.5 million pigs annually from 1.2m households; in contrast to 9.1m pigs from 6,000 pig holdings in the UK. Pigs are usually finished at between 40-50kg at six months of age. These are figures that will hardly excite us in the West but things are rapidly changing. Uganda has huge scope for agricultural growth in general, but, just as here in Britain, the most resourceful farmers are often the most successful.

Devenish’s Model Pig Farm and Feed Mill in Kibati, Hoima, was officially opened by Uganda’s Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, the Honourable Vincent Ssempijja on March 14. The Model Farm has been founded as a 40-sow unit, initially, with all progeny sold as replacement stock to progressive Ugandan producers.

The Devenish team in Uganda is aiming to transform the pig industry by driving production efficiency through improved nutrition, genetics and on-farm technical support. Two hours north along dirt roads from the capital, Kampala, is far from where I expected to see innovation. Washington (a local pig and poultry producer) manages a farm of 38 breeding sows, 150 broiler chickens and grows many acres of maize and soya using irrigation and pig and chicken manure, which is somewhat rare in
Uganda. The pigs are fed on compound feed from the Devenish feed mill and wouldn’t look out of place at home.

“I’m proud to be part of a company and a pig industry that is innovative, and has had to be, in the global marketplace”

Yet, it was when I asked Washington about his broilers’ feed that his face lit up. I was led to a tarpaulin piled with pig manure, left to dry in the sun. After two days, the manure is moved onto shallow trays and inside to a makeshift polytunnel. After a further three days, the compost-like substrate in the trays is sieved to remove the fly larvae or maggots. After swiping his hand through a bucket of heaving maggots, he smiled and said: “This is my chicken feed.” Washington is innovative and has truly embraced insect protein and, along with some basic supplementation, his broiler birds looked fantastic.

Henry Ford was the epitome of innovation and when manufacturing his prototype motorcar he was quoted as saying: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Innovators push the boundaries of what can be done and pursue continued excellence. I’m proud to be part of a company and a pig industry that is innovative, and has had to be, in the global marketplace.

We look forward to celebrating yet more innovators from our industry at the National Pig Awards in November. Entries to the awards, including our Technical Innovation of the Year category, are now open.

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