Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Alltech 30th International Symposium asks ‘What if?’

Tim Thornberry Published on 30 June 2014

pearse lyons

For anyone who has seen or attended the Alltech 30th International Symposium, to say it has a theatrical feel is an understatement; complete with elaborate stage settings, bright lights and continual slide presentations all around, it’s worth the trip to see the sheer production of the event.



This year’s gathering lived up to past symposiums in its stage presence, but it was the presentations based on the theme “What if?” that piqued the interest of the 2,000 in attendance who came from 60 different countries.

By the time attendees made it to a Monday morning opening session, they had already experienced time to network, socialize and tour Alltech headquarters and its distilling operations.

The session began with a performance of “I Have a Dream” by the Lexington School for the Performing Arts, followed by Alltech founder Pearse Lyons, who asked the crowd what their dreams and goals were in staying with the symposium theme. He asked what they would do with $10,000, which is the amount Lyons began the company with 34 years ago. Today it is worth $1 billion.

evans Darko

Lyons also noted several famous people who transformed the world because they each had a dream, people like Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs.


“This symposium is about what ifs – not my what ifs but your what ifs,” he said. “It’s about TIP; it’s about transformation, it’s about inspiration and of course it’s about passion,” he said.

That statement led Lyons into the presentation of the Alltech Humanitarian Award to Olympic runner Lopez Lomong, who overcame great odds to come to America and set an example of what can be accomplished with determination.

Dr. Karl Dawson, the company’s chief scientific officer, also addressed the crowd during the opening session. He discussed what he sees as the future or more specifically what needs to happen in the future for the human food chain.

children's choir “Science and technology will continue to change the way we produce food,” he said. “We can now understand our livestock with the aid of molecular tools which provide us with billions of observations, while big data presents us with new opportunities.”

Alltech’s 2014 Medal of Excellence went posthumously to the late Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, known as the Father of the Green Revolution.

Borlaug’s granddaughter, Dr. Julie Borlaug Larson, the associate director for external relations at the Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University, accepted the award on his behalf during the opening session.


Dr. Mark Lyons, vice president of corporate affairs for Alltech, led a presentation about the new China, while Becky Timmons, Alltech’s global director of applications research and quality assurance, discussed feeding the world by saving bees and microbes.

crowd at symposium

Other highlights of the conference included sessions on Africa being the land of opportunity, modern farming, algae opportunities, crop science, and business and technology.

The winners of the Alltech Young Scientist Program were announced, while Pearse Lyons announced the creation of the Lyons’ Den Innovation Fund, which will award up to $500,000 annually to entrepreneurial projects of interest.

The last day of the symposium began with a dairy leadership breakfast, where Dr. Tyler Bramble with Alltech and Jay Johnston with Ritchie Feed and Seed discussed ways to improve production, improve feed efficiency and improve reproduction.

The symposium closed with these words from Pearse Lyons: “What did you learn? Will it transform you? There are so many ideas and yet so little time.” PD

Tim Thornberry is a freelance writer based in Frankfort, Kentucky

TOP: In the opening session, Alltech founder Pearse Lyons asks attendees what they would do with $10,000. His keynote address encouraged the crowd to use their passion to transform the world.

TOP MIDDLE: Evans Darko, Ag Forte (Willmar Poultry Company) of Harrisonburg, Virginia, discusses where and what to invest in within Africa.

BOTTOM MIDDLE: Lexington School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA) perform at the Alltech 30th Annual International Symposium.

BOTTOM: Large crowds gather at the symposium. Photos courtesy of Alltech.