The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and Dairy.com joined forces to put together a new event that organizers hope propels the dairy industry forward.
The DairyTech Conference, set to debut May 18 and 19 in Austin, Texas, will bring together the worlds of dairy and technology with innovations and the future in mind.
Thomas Wojno, IDFA’s senior vice president of innovation and member advancement, helped put the event together. He said the idea for the conference originated from a desire to elevate the industry.
“Dairy, while an entrepreneurial and fantastic industry, maybe has been some years behind in how they adopt and adapt with changes in the industry and adopt new technologies and innovation,” Wojno said. “We see this conference as the intersection where dairy and tech can connect.”
Some of the key topics at the conference will include better digitizing the dairy industry’s supply chain, technology’s impact on retail, e-commerce and consumer trends, incorporating innovation into sustainability, cybersecurity concerns and examples of notable technological successes in food and agriculture.
Wojno said IDFA and Dairy.com want to upgrade the industry to “not only catch up, but maybe lead in the future in food and ag, and embrace technology so that we can bring dairy into the 21st century.”
As the dairy industry starts to better embrace new innovations and implement them, Wojno said the flipside of the argument for doing so includes the risks that could be introduced into the supply chain. The conference will examine such issues.
“How do we embrace new ways to combat cybersecurity threats across the dairy supply chain and make sure that, as we adapt and adopt these new technologies, that we’re also innovating in the ways we secure these platforms?” he said.
IDFA organizers are excited to bring together two distinct audiences at the DairyTech Conference, so they can collaborate and combine resources.
“I don’t know that there’s been a conference and an engagement opportunity that has had the odd bedfellows of technology leaders and dairy processors and agri-tech folks, all in the same room, trying to align their compasses to drive the industry forward together,” Wojno said.
This new event, which organizers hope will become an annual part of the calendar, was a priority for IDFA, Wojno said, because the association wants to provide members with value through training, education and networking.
“I’m excited that as we push this conference forward and build out further resources in this technology and innovation sector, that we can move the industry forward by building this knowledge base, by heightening awareness of these new tools and solutions and by offering our members the opportunity to network with these expert resources,” he said.
The dairy industry is expected to see more changes in the next five years than occurred in the past 15 years, professionals within the industry predict. Technology and innovations will make such momentous changes possible.
While much of the conference will address the potential for the future and ways to modernize operations, Wojno said the event also will shine a spotlight on examples of technological successes that already exist in the realms of feed and agriculture. He said plans for the agenda include a panel of chief information officers, who will provide a quick look back at how their brands have made progress, and a look forward to how the industry can embrace technology.
The first DairyTech Conference will take place at the Austin Marriott Downtown. The state capital of Texas is an attraction all on its own, Wojno said, between the vast food options and the city’s “quirky, fun” energy.
“We see it as a great tech hub, smackdab in the middle of the US,” he said, adding that it will be an ideal central meeting place for those from Silicon Valley, as well as New England innovators, and biotech experts from the Washington, DC, area.
“This conference is going to be where the dairy business and business leaders can meet and interact with technology leaders and improve transparency and quality and efficiency across the supply chain and elevate dairy,” Wojno said. “That’s kind of our goal and intended objective, and we look forward to growing and building this thing and kind of mobilizing those two worlds to intersect.”