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Exclusive interview with Stefan Hoh at VICTAM Asia 2022

Bringing digital solutions to food production. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Stefan Hoh, head of Market Segment from Buhler Group speaks with Far Eastern Agriculture on bringing digital solutions to feed plants and future developments

Can you tell me a bit about your company and how COVID has impacted your business? 

Stefan Hoh: Buhler is mainly active in supplying technologies and solutions for staple food, and the good thing is that the world still needs to eat. COVID testing affected us in the sense that a lot of road checks were cancelled and delayed due to the insecurity in the global markets. Of course, the global logistics chains were also stretched and that led to the delay of many projects. But now, as in many countries and regions in the world, we see that COVID has already mostly been managed. We see that a lot of the road checks which had been delayed are now coming up again. So we have seen this as an opportunity and are now ready to support our customers and the industry to continue business.

What are the latest products developed by your company? 

Stefan Hoh: When we develop products, we not only look at the current market trends, but also look into the future and develop solutions. For instance, for grinding, we have a new hammer mill which is 10% more energy efficient as compared to the benchmark of our competitors. At the same time, it increases the throughput by 10%. Then, we have other innovations in the portfolio in terms of pelleting, which will enter the market in 2023. Moreover, we also have digital solutions that play a very important role in our product portfolio. In 2022, we launched two products.

The first one called ‘PelletingPro’ moisture, controls the moisture of the feed pellet aspect. In essence, This means that we can control and regulate the moisture present not just within the mixer, but also in the back end of line, fully and autonomously. This is a huge game changer since we have customers who save up to 20% of the energy by using them. 

Another digital solution is the ‘feed plant companion’, which comprises of a combination of multiple sensors across different process steps in the pellet present within the feed mill that loops and analyses current data patterns and helps to improve the production and also keeps pro-active recommendations. For instance, it analyses whether the mixing cycle is ideally configured or whether there is still any potential. 

What level of competition are you receiving from other companies?

Stefan Hoh: Competition has massively increased, especially in China. All the big players are fighting for a market share in China, concerning the rest of the world. Moreover, competitive intensity is also high but not higher than in the past. 

Do you have any plans of expanding your business?

Stefan Hoh: Yes, we always look into new opportunities and markets. We are already serving fundamentally all countries in the world with our solutions. But of course, we have some focus markets where we would like to increase our footprint, namely the Middle East region. In general, we would also like to extend our footprint in Asia.

How are you different from your competitors? 

Stefan Hoh: We are basically supplying the whole scope; Buhler makes farm machines to process lines to complete feed plants, including automation and services. There are just two or three other players on a global scope who can do the same. Then, we have our digital solutions. We are definitely one step ahead as compared to our competitors because we also benefit from the large group and from investments into the digital solutions of our group. By that, we can also leverage the experience we have in feed milling since more than 80 years. This is something that we can correspondingly reflect in our digital solutions, and is a huge advantage compared to other competitors. 

Can you tell me more about these digital solutions and how old they are?

Stefan Hoh: I think digital solutions are one of the biggest levers to improve the efficiency in our industry. Our pipeline of digital solutions is fully loaded, and the two solutions I just mentioned were introduced in May 2022. However, we already launched other digital products during the previous years. 

Have you observed any growth after introducing this digital solution in May 2022?

Stefan Hoh: Yes, of course. We have already sold multiple installations in Europe and we now have a huge interest in Asia. We are close to entering a deal with big Chinese companies to equate their feed mills with our digital solutions. That is just the starting point, but I would say the ball is rolling.