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I expect that after the 2024 Dairy Olympics there will be increased interest in government through artificial intelligence - Ahmed Eltigani, Al-Rawabi

World 21.02.2024
Source: The DairyNews
848 EN 中文 DE FR عربى
Professor Dr. Ahmed Eltighani Elmansouri, CEO of Al Rawabi Dairy Company in the UAE, was one of the main speakers at the 2024 Dairy Olympics, which will be held in Ankara, Turkey. Ahmed Eltigani is not only a recognized leader in the dairy industry, but also a pioneer who has introduced revolutionary practices.
I expect that after the 2024 Dairy Olympics there will be increased interest in government through artificial intelligence - Ahmed Eltigani, Al-Rawabi
Today, his experiences and ideas continue to inspire and have a significant impact on the industry and business community. In an interview with The DairyNews, the businessman spoke about how to develop a dairy company in the climatic conditions of the UAE, what innovative methods he uses in managing and developing his company, as well as plans for scaling.

Doctor Eltigani, tell us what your speech at the Dairy Olympics will be about.

— I will talk about how to use artificial intelligence to effectively manage megafarms. This topic is extremely important for veterinarians because although many of us were trained in veterinary medical schools, we often lack knowledge in management and leadership. We have mastered the skills of working with animals, maintaining their health, monitoring nutrition, maintenance, medical procedures, ecology and more. However, when we start working, we are faced with a number of management tasks and problems. That's why I'm attending the conference to share my experience gained over 45 years in the dairy industry. I received specialized training in artificial intelligence at MIT and am eager to combine the knowledge I gained there with my knowledge in veterinary medicine. I have already trained many of my employees at AlRawabi, the largest dairy company in the UAE, and I want to share my experience and knowledge with a wider audience.

Tell us about your company Al Rawabi. How did the idea to start producing milk in the UAE come about?

— Our dairy farm was founded by me back in 1989. More than 35 years ago, we started with just 500 cows, and today we have 18,000. We are the market leader in the region and work with 15,000 retailers in the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Milk is a spoilage product and people want to consume fresh milk just as they always prefer fresh vegetables, fruits, bread and eggs. At that time, due to long shipping times, it was difficult to import milk fr om abroad, so we decided to produce our own locally.

Tell us about the features of milk production in the UAE. How difficult is this in the climatic conditions of the country?

— In summer, the temperature here reaches +50ºС, humidity rises to 95-98%. These two conditions are not favorable for dairy cow breeds, especially European ones. Our cows are Fresian, so it was important to organize the most comfortable conditions for them. We have imported coolers fr om Arizona, USA which have fans and jets. The nozzles pass water, similar to evaporative cooling, and air pressure distributes these small particles of water to cool the cows fr om 50ºC to 28ºC. Cows need to have a low temperature, just like in their home country, and we achieve this with special cooling.

How do you solve the issue of food supply in the climatic conditions of the UAE?

— We feed our cows here better than in Europe because we have a good source of feed, we import all feed from abroad. We provide them with a complete balanced diet, including the optimal combination of fiber, protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. We work with nutritionists to provide optimal nutrition for cows and divide them into different groups to accommodate individual needs. These are the two main components of the success of our production: a favorable climate and high-quality food. As a result, the productivity of our cows exceeds the European average. In Holland the average milk production is about 8,700 liters per year per cow, in Germany - about 8,900 liters. On our farm, the average production reaches 11,000 liters per cow. This is the result of stable climatic conditions throughout the year, as well as the more varied and valuable food we provide to our animals. While in Europe the main feed sources are silage, grass and concentrates, we have access to a wide range of feeds including soybeans, sugar beets, alfalfa and cottonseed. These feeds are more nutritious and valuable for our cows, which is reflected in the high productivity and quality of our milk.

What herd management system do you use?

— We have an artificial intelligence system installed, and chips with sensors are installed on each cow and its neck. There is also a sensor on the farm's roof that measures the cow's steps and breathing. If any of these parameters change in a cow, it is immediately separated from the rest. Thanks to an additional sensor installed on the way to the milking parlor, a special barrier appears, and a cow with non-standard indicators is forced to turn to another area. In this area, the veterinarian examines her, taking measures before the onset of illness. This system is integrated with DairyComp 305 software and does a great job of managing your herd. We also use ChatGPT and Co-Pilot. All of our managers have been trained to use Co-Pilot. These two AI tools are very advanced and help in herd management. That's why I'm giving a talk at your Dairy Olympics on how to run dairy companies using artificial intelligence, and I want to explain to people how they can implement this in their work.

Tell us about product innovations in the company.

— We became the first company on the market to offer milk in plastic bottles, and this attracted the attention of buyers. When people entered hypermarkets or supermarkets, they noticed a new packaging format - milk in bottles rather than in cartons. This resulted in us gaining about 7% market share.

In 1994, I thought, why do all companies produce milk only in 0.5 and 1 liter packages, like in Europe? In Europe, families usually consist of one or three people, while in our region the average number of family members is around 5-7 people. Such small packages of 0.5 and 1 liter were not spacious enough. That's why we became the first company to offer 2-3 liter family packs as well as 1 gallon (about 3.79 liters) packs. This gave us an additional 12% market share as customers could shop less frequently, reducing the need to visit the store.

Also in 1994, there were no fresh juices on the market. There were other drinks instead. We decided to change this and became the first company to produce natural pasteurized juices. This also gave us an additional 5% market share.

In 2000, we introduced omega milk containing omega-3 fatty acids to the market. Omega-3 is known for its beneficial properties for the cardiovascular system, vision, immunity, etc. We contacted the UAE Ministry of Health and learned that vitamin D deficiency is one of the main problems in our country. That's why we became the first company to produce fortified milk with high levels of vitamin D. We then developed Nutrée Boost, a breakfast substitute containing wild oats, laban, minerals, vitamins and a blend of natural fruits. This product received an award in the nutrition category out of millions of other food products.

What other product innovations are you planning for the company?

— We strive to occupy our niche in the functional products market. We recently introduced A2 milk for people with milk allergies. To do this, we divided the cows into two groups: one group produces A1 β-casein and the other produces A2 β-casein. We milk cows that produce A2 β-casein separately and use their milk to produce A2 milk, which is safe for people with allergies. We are currently developing products for weight loss in obese people. We make products that help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels. We are also developing milk that helps lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. We are also considering the possibility of producing milk for people suffering from sleep disorders. Here are our plans for development in the future.

When are you going to introduce your new products?

— We release a new product every three months, as it takes time to develop it. The next product will be launched in March - it will be matcha milk. Matcha is popular among many people today, so we will introduce it next month. Then in six months we plan to launch an anti-obesity product to help people lose weight within four months. After that, we will start working on a product for people with diabetes.

In one of your interviews, you mentioned that you invest heavily in research to create new products. Tell us more about this.

— Yes, we have a special budget allocated for research and development, I cannot announce the amount, this is confidential information. We actively use the latest technologies. We recently implemented Co-Pilot on all of our managers' computers. Although Co-Pilot is expensive, we believe it brings great value to our business. Now our managers can use this program in their daily management.

It integrates ChatGPT with Outlook as well as Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. This helps us organize the information we have created or used in these programs over the past 10 years. It also provides a summary of your plans for the current and upcoming weeks. We have seriously invested in this project. In addition, we have also invested in two robots in our factory, which are already actively operating. These robots are involved in filling our vans using a special machine. They work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Tell us, in which countries are you represented today? And what regions are you planning to expand into?

— In the production of fresh products, we work only in the markets of the United Arab Emirates and Oman. When it comes to shelf-stable milk and juices, we are already present in Uganda, Iraq, Syria and Egypt. We have now appointed a new export manager to look after the rest of Africa.

Why did you focus on African countries?

— We decided to focus on them due to the lack of local food production enterprises. Most of these countries still depend on imported products. We are also currently investing in a dairy farm in Uganda. We have already received a plot of land from the government and are planning to create a dairy farm there. We also have an agreement with contract farmers. We have already held meetings with them and plan to develop them as farmers, collect milk from them and then provide them with services that will be deducted from the price of raw materials. We are going to process this milk in our plant so that they can avoid problems with the market.

Apart from AlRawabi, are you developing your own consulting company? Tell us a little about her.

— Yes, I have my own consulting company called “Agribusiness Consulting”. I currently provide consultancy to large dairy companies in Botswana and Nigeria. We plan to create a model farm that will have its own feed production to supply not only the farm, but also agricultural enterprises in the area. The farm will also have an academy to train farmers, an artificial insemination center and embryo transfer services to boost production. We have discussed funding for this project with Standard Chartered Bank, who are interested in implementing it as a contract farmer project in Nigeria and Botswana. We have the support of the President of Botswana and good connections with senior officials in Nigeria. To successfully do business in African countries, the support of senior officials is very important, otherwise you will not achieve anything there.

What exactly does your consultation involve?

— My consulting activities are aimed at increasing production. I successfully introduced this concept in western Sudan, wh ere farmers were previously living in poverty. Now, thanks to my model, their lives have improved dramatically. We build milk and meat processing plants, and also provide farmers with the necessary services. My dream is to extend this model to all poor countries. We help farmers improve their living conditions by building barns and providing artificial insemination and embryo transfer services. We also develop training programs for farmers and establish centers for research and development. Our goal is to significantly increase milk production. This will improve the living standards of farmers and make products available at low prices. We set high quality standards and ensure strict production controls. Our farm operates on the basis of our own plant, wh ere we produce high-quality shelf-stable milk. Our products are exported to the United Arab Emirates wh ere they are popular in both the local and international markets.

Dr. Ahmed Eltighani Elmansouri, thank you for the fascinating interview. We look forward to your performance at our Dairy Olympics 2024 in Ankara. Finally, please share your expectations from the upcoming event.

— I expect that after this event, all veterinarians will show interest in herd management using artificial intelligence. This is the challenge I set myself when I founded Al Rawabi 35 years ago, and today our company is a market leader. I want to pass on my experience to my colleagues to help them effectively manage their businesses - be it a veterinary clinic, a dairy farm or a processing plant. Veterinarians are smart and talented people who work in a variety of fields, and I'm sure they will find this topic very helpful. I look forward to interacting with colleagues and discussing leadership and business management issues.

Prof. Dr. Ahmed Eltighani Elmansouri is the founder of Al Rawabi Dairy Company in the UAE. During his 35 years at the helm of his company, he had a major impact on the dairy industry. Ahmed Eltigani Elmansouri's contributions have been recognized with numerous national and international awards, including Entrepreneur Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year. However, under his leadership, Al Rawabi has become one of the 40 strongest brands in the Arab world, according to Forbes magazine. The world's media, including CEO, Forbes and Entrepreneur magazines, as well as CNN, Sky News and National Geographic TV, are actively interested in the activities of Dr. Ahmed Eltigani.

Let us remind you that in 2024 the Dairy Olympics will be held for the 15th time. This is an opportunity to hear speeches from industry leaders, learn and adopt best practices, and be inspired by new ideas! Leading speakers: Piercristiano Brazzale, Torsten Hemme, Professor Ahmed Eltigani, Kevin Bellamy, Igor Barinholtz have already confirmed their participation as speakers.

The purpose of the event is to determine the prospects of the global dairy market, assess existing industry problems, forecast trends, establish new connections and initiate new grandiose projects.

You can register as a participant or propose your topic for a speech on the official website of the Dairy Olympics.

Register now at attractive prices and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the Dairy Olympics!

Starting March 15, registration prices will change.
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