SAN ANTONIA, TEXAS, U.S. – More than 60 industry professionals gathered in San Antonio, Texas, U.S., to participate in the American Feed Industry Association’s 19th annual Equipment Manufacturers Conference (EMC). Hosted by AFIA’s Equipment Manufacturers Committee, this year’s conference examined the future of the industry with discussions on how to recruit, train and retain qualified people pursuing careers in this segment of the industry to cultivating an employee culture that works.

“One of the biggest challenges facing our industry today is the recruitment and retention of qualified staff,” said Gary Huddleston, AFIA’s director of feed manufacturing and regulatory affairs. “This year’s Equipment Manufacturers Conference tackled this issue head on, from examining opportunities to offer real-world experience through apprenticeship and training programs to supporting scholarships, such as the EMC Scholarship Fund, which support college students pursuing degrees in the feed industry.”

One way AFIA’s Equipment Manufacturers Committee is investing in future leaders is through the EMC Scholarship Fund, administered by the Institute for Feed Education and Research. This fund raises money for college students pursuing various degrees in animal food manufacturing.  Testifying to the scholarship fund’s benefits, the committee debuted a short video that provided a history of the fund along with testimonials from young professionals and students who have benefitted from the scholarship.

“One of the things the EMC recognizes is the need to continue bringing new talent,” said committee chair Alan Berndtson, of WEM Automation, Inc. “A lot of people are unfamiliar with the feed industry; it’s not necessarily a direction that they may be steered otherwise, and so this fund is our way of promoting and trying to reach out to college students as a very valuable future for their employment and career opportunities.” 

Twenty conference attendees also took part in the annual four-person scramble golf tournament, which raised more than $3,600 to support the EMC scholarship fund. First-place winners of this year’s tournament were: Jonathan Wheat of 4B Components, Ltd.; Michael Schuster of Laidig Systems, Inc.; Jason Hoekstra of EPL Feed LLC; and Matt Podany of Chief Agri.

Another highlight of this year’s conference included a panel of feed production professionals who discussed topics such as factory acceptance testing, startup and commissioning of equipment as well as common frustrations experienced with equipment suppliers. Conference attendees also heard from industry leaders on some of the current policy issues impacting the industry, including the latest work to develop international feed machinery standards.

The 2019 Equipment Manufacturers Conference will take place Nov. 6-8, 2019, in Marco Island, Florida, U.S.