Seeking out new ideas, information and innovations, more than 20,000 pork producers and ag professionals from throughout the world attended the 29th World Pork Expo, June 7-9, in Des Moines. Presented by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the 2017 Expo hosted more than 1,000 international guests from nearly 40 countries.

Highlights included the world’s largest pork-specific trade show, a wide variety of educational seminars and another barn-busting Junior National swine show. Iowa’s summer weather provided a pleasant backdrop for the allied industry hospitality tents that lined the streets of the Iowa State Fairgrounds, as well as a relaxing evening for MusicFest. As always, there was plenty of mouthwatering pork served, including more than 10,000 free lunches from the Big Grill — prepared by Iowa’s Tama County Pork Producers Association members — throughout the three days.

“World Pork Expo gives producers the opportunity to see and touch the newest products and technologies for their pork businesses,” says Ken Maschhoff, NPPC president and Illinois pork producer. “It’s a place for producers to interact with each other and share ideas. It also gives employees at all levels a chance to learn, deepen their connection to pork production and have some fun.”

Innovation takes center stage

Expo presents the world’s largest pork-specific trade show, and this year’s event included more than 450 commercial exhibits from companies throughout the world. Another 53 allied industry hospitality tents offered companies and producers the opportunity to discuss products, services and technologies that can help produce high-quality pork efficiently, responsibly and successfully.

Steady traffic flow within the trade show left exhibitors with a positive impression of this year’s Expo. “What’s new? What makes your product different? and What’s on the horizon?” were common inquiries from producers walking the 320,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Today’s Expo visitors are more technology savvy and data-driven, points out Eric Holtkamp, chief executive officer of Control Tech, whose company has exhibited for more than a decade.  “For both new and older barns, producers want to monitor the facilities from their cell phones. They want to track factors like feed, water, temperature and then get immediate alerts if there’s an issue,” he notes.

This type of technology also makes data collection and analysis easier and more useful. “Previously, when customers looked at building controls, purchasing decisions were more cost-driven. Today, they’re more feature-driven; producers are looking for specific functionality,” Holtkamp says.

Interactions between vendors and producer customers are key drivers for a successful Expo. “It was a fantastic week. We had good traffic and customer interactions,” says Matt Kocher, marketing director for Ceva Animal Health, a first-time exhibitor. “We’re here to help producers solve challenges and advance their businesses, and the conversations we had were forward-looking and constructive.”

Kocher particularly likes Expo’s atmosphere, which combines a learning environment with some fellowship, and that it presents a broad view of the industry all in one place. “Naturally, pork business owners attend Expo, but you’ll also find managers at various levels and barn workers. It gives you a perspective on what they do and what they need. Expo cuts pretty broad and deep,” he adds.