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FoodChain ID: Nourishing transparency and sustainable growth

July 6, 2023
Ruud Overbeek speaking at the Alltech ONE Dublin

At Alltech ONE Dublin, Ruud Overbeek of FoodChain ID offered insights into the future of sustainable agriculture.

Gain insights into the crucial role of transparency, compliance, and sustainability in the food supply chain — as Ruud Overbeek, senior vice president for corporate development and strategic relationships at FoodChain ID, shares strategies for fostering sustainable growth in the Ag Future podcast.

The following blog is a summary of the Ag Future podcast episode with Ruud Overbeek hosted by Tom Martin. Click below to hear the full audio or listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Tom Martin:           I’m Tom Martin. And joining us from Houston, Texas, is Dr. Ruud Overbeek, senior vice president of corporate development and strategic relationships at FoodChain ID.

                               Dr. Overbeek is responsible for FoodChain ID’s strategic growth through mergers and acquisitions as well as maintaining the foundational relationships with FoodChain ID’s key customers and partners.

                               Welcome to AgFuture, Dr. Overbeek.

Dr. Ruud Overbeek: Thank you and good morning.

Tom Martin:           First, would you tell us a little bit about FoodChain ID?

Dr. Ruud Overbeek: Our mission statement at FoodChain ID is that we make it easier for companies to make their products in the food chain transparent, compliant and safe.

                               Transparency obviously means many things, and that includes topics like sustainability, but also what is in it and how it actually gets to the consumer ultimately in a safe and transparent manner.

Tom Martin:           So, am I right that basically you help a company move its product or the manufacturing process through the regulatory structure?

Dr. Ruud Overbeek: That’s just one of the many things. We actually help companies from many different things — really, I would almost say, from the farm to the fork. That’s probably the best description that you can have.

Tom Martin:           Okay.

Dr. Ruud Overbeek: Or from the seeds to the supper.

                               Along the supply chain, we help companies to make their products safe, compliant and transparent, so that they can bring it to the next tier in the supply chain, ensuring that they can actually then market their respective products.

                               And we support multiple activities. For example, we support product developments, we support food safety. Regulatory compliance is just one of those, but also product certifications and testing.

Tom Martin:           I see. Okay.

                               The theme of Alltech’s ONE Dublin event covers current challenges for the agricultural industry, and those include the need to address climate change.

                               How is FoodChain ID offering your food and feed customers ways to respond to the need to measure CO2 emissions?

Dr. Ruud Overbeek: Actually, that’s in the foundation of our company. We have been involved with many aspects of sustainability from the beginning of the company. We were the inventor of the first PCR-based test to identify the difference between GMO and non-GMO crops. So it is in the foundation of our company, and it’s something that we have done since 1996, from the start.

                               We actually are involved in many different initiatives to ensure the sustainable production and sustainable growth of everything that is in the food supply chain, from farm to fork, as I’ve said before.

Tom Martin:           We all see the promises that companies are making on CO2 reduction in their supply chains. We also see the brand damage that occurs when practices fail to live up to those promises.

                               What’s your perspective on how the industry can document progress and not overpromise?

Dr. Ruud Overbeek: That’s very interesting. I mean, you see already the first challenges of brands and companies that actually have made promises on the way of improving the sustainable footprint.

                               What we as a company do is, we help independently as a third party or as a second party to verify that the claims that are made are in effect correct, meet the requirements, meet the standards.

                               So we actually support companies. We go into the fields, support the verification — whether it’s on-farm or within the company — of any of the claims that they want to make to further their interests.

Tom Martin:           Sustainability is of course important to farmers in their role as stewards of their land. How can a farmer who is already practicing certain sustainable practices benefit from working with a company like FoodChain ID?

Dr. Ruud Overbeek: As a company, we officially work from the farm to fork, I’ve said that before. But a lot of companies — I would say sustainability has three aspects.

The first one is people, making sure that there are proper social aspects of sustainability, that the farmer has a way to make money.

                               The second one is planet, which is what we’re all about. I have kids, and that is why I am so interested in sustainability. I want to make sure that my kids actually have a sustainable future themselves and their kids will have a sustainable future.

                               And then, finally, there is the P for profit. Good business will make good practice. And what we can do is, if a farmer has a sustainable practice already but they’re not benefiting from that, we can help them to find a way to benefit from that. For example, making claims in the products that increase the value of their products, or ensuring that the claims that they can make will carry forward in the supply chain, so that, for example, a retailer can make a claim that they’re working with a sustainable farmer, so that they can obtain more money from the products, so that ultimately the farmer gets more benefits from it.

                               At the end, you know, a sustainable future involves all parties in the supply chain, and it involves, ultimately, that we do the right thing.

Tom Martin:           How is FoodChain ID working to keep the feed and food supply chain safe and transparent?

Dr. Ruud Overbeek: We are working already with a lot of industry private partnership, where we are involved as an independent verifier, and I can give you a couple of examples.

                               We work, for example, with the ProTerra Foundation, which is a not-for-profit organization that advances and promotes sustainability at all levels of the feed and food production system. They are committed to food transparency and traceability throughout the supply chain. And they are concerned for corporate and social responsibility and potential detrimental impact on ecosystems and biodiversity.

                               We are in that initiative, we are the independent third-party certifier, which is obviously central to the ProTerra Foundation’s mission that helps to bring together stakeholders from all parts of the supply chain.

ProTerra certification ensures that high-quality supplies of crops, food and feed that are independently certified as non-GMO and produced with improved sustainability are available in the market. That’s just one example.

                               We’re also active in other activities. For example, we’re currently working on ESG initiatives within the Brazilian soy industry, where there’s a multi-stakeholder consortium created to develop a program assessing compliance to the EU regulations on deforestation-free supply chains.

And there, the benefit for the farmers is making sure that there is a carbon credit system, that there is a proper carbon measurement technology and traceability, and that we can provide the assessments, combined with other sustainability standards like the ProTerra Foundation, for example, or the non-GMO product verification that the farmers and all of the stakeholders in that multi-stakeholder involvement can benefit.

Tom Martin:           We know that FoodChain ID is a big advocate of partnerships. I wonder if you could give us some examples of how your partnerships have advanced sustainable food production.

Dr. Ruud Overbeek: Yeah. So, the two ones that I already mentioned, the ProTerra Foundation is in food and feed, obviously, and then, soy is used in all kinds of products in the food and feed supply chain.

                               The one that is probably the most prevalent in our company is because we were at the technological birth of the ability to verify non-GMO versus GMO crops, which is actually the Non-GMO Project. And we partnered from the beginning with the Non-GMO Project, which is — you’re in the U.S., so you understand the butterfly is the representation of the Non-GMO Project on the foods that we buy.

                               As we said, we actually invented the testing methodology to identify between GMO and non-GMO products. And the Non-GMO Project, which we have collaborated with from the beginning, is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization offering product education and trustworthy education empowering people to take care of themselves, the planet and future generations.

                               And the intent there was that everyone has the right to know what is in their food and the surest access to non-GMO choices. We have been involved from the beginning in partnering with them in helping them to set the standards, and we continue to do so, ensuring that the consumers have access to these non-GMO choices.

                               And we verify many products that are in the market for Non-GMO Project verification. And that leads to the seal, the butterfly seal, that people see on their brands or on any food that they eat.

Tom Martin:           I’m wondering about the lessons that emerged from these arrangements. In other words, what have you learned about successful partnerships that might help Alltech and our clients?

Dr. Ruud Overbeek: What we’ve learned is that ultimately it has to be multi-stakeholder interest. At the end, it has to make sense for the farmer to do the right thing to improve their way of existence, you know, the profitability on the farm, the making sure that they make the right products that are the right choices for the planet. That is something that all of the stakeholders have to keep in mind. It has to make sense for everyone, and it has to make sense for the planet.

                               And so what is important is that it is not just an initiative, but the results or verification of what is going on is actually meeting the intents of the initiatives. For example, in the case of Alltech, the Planet of Plenty™ is a clear initiative, it is a great initiative, but what is very important is that independent verification ensures that every stakeholder is doing what is right and in accordance with the requirements that have been set by all.

                               That actually provides security, certainty for all of the stakeholders involved, but also ultimately for the consumer that consumes the final products.

Tom Martin:           What key current trends in food supply and logistics are you keeping an eye on right now?

Dr. Ruud Overbeek: For us, one of the things that is more important is actually the topic of transparency. Consumers really care more about what they eat, whether it’s healthy for them, whether it makes sense for the planet, so whether it’s the right choice to be made in addition to price. But consumers are willing to pay for things that make sense, you know.

That means that in the supply chain, there has to be more and more transparency. So: more verification, information, data, etc., that exchange between the different actors in the supply chain.

And we continue to transform the industry with products that make it more efficient to connect and use external and internal data. And these data-driven solutions, which will help our customers manage their portfolio of products throughout the life cycles to ensure that they remain compliant, transparent and safe.

Tom Martin:           All right. That’s Dr. Ruud Overbeek, senior vice president of corporate development and strategic relationships at FoodChain ID.

                               Thank you so much.

Dr. Ruud Overbeek: Thank you very much.

Tom Martin:           And for AgFuture, I’m Tom Martin.