Earlier in 2014, international feed additives company Novus International presented François Fraudeau as its new president and CEO. Aiming to encourage and challenge his employees, he hopes to achieve 10% market share by 2020.
By Roger Abbott
"Small farmer's son takes on the world..." is the sort of headline many editors dream of writing – but that is the real-life opportunity for the new head of a major international animal feed additive business, French-born François Fraudeau, whose father had a small 25 ha mixed farm.
"My father eventually had to stop farming in France because the farm was too small for both him and his brother and went on to make his name as a journalist instead. I remember the farm had some dairy cows and crops and I enjoyed spending time there with my cousins," says Fraudeau, who was appointed president and chief executive officer at Novus International in the beginning of 2014, and he has ambitious plans to expand the company's global operations.
With its headquarters in St Charles, MO, United States, the company provides animal nutrition products for livestock, poultry and aquaculture worldwide, with corporate offices, research and development laboratories and manufacturing facilities in more than 35 countries, as well as smaller offices with field staff in an additional 60 countries.
Describing himself as an analytical sort of guy who believes in helping people by challenging them to develop their talents and reach their full potential, this engaging 'new kid on the block' has a background in agricultural engineering and plant science. He qualified as an agronomist before starting his career with a small seed and fertiliser business in the 1980s.
"It was only when I was recruited by Monsanto in 1988 and was assigned to the feed additive side of the business – don't ask me why – that I developed my interest in the feed and livestock industry. The basic science is the same and I found this side of agriculture really interesting," says Fraudeau.
Armed with first-hand experience of the industry gained while in positions of responsibility in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa during the past 25 years, Fraudeau has a good idea of where he would like the company to be by 2020, as well as ambitious plans for the longer term.
"We are positioned to become a major player in the animal feed additive market growing to at least 10% of the global market by 2020," he says. He intends to achieve this by building on the company's current share in the methionine business and also investing in new technologies that will help its customers optimise and enhance nutrition, raw materials and feed quality, focusing particularly on the pig, poultry (meat and eggs) and dairy sectors, while maintaining a close eye on what's happening in the aquaculture
market, which Fraudeau has identified as 'an interesting industry and a possible growth area in the future'. What he describes as its pioneering work will also continue: to replace antibiotics with new techniques including probiotics and a range of different organic acids.
"We will be investing a lot in research and development to help us achieve our aims and also continue with our latest idea of selling directly to animal feed producers. Besides helping our customers, this will also enable us to identify and understand the challenges facing the market so that we can respond to them effectively."
Asked about the main challenges the international livestock industry business as a whole is facing, Fraudeau replies without hesitation: "The number one challenge is how producers will meet the demand for and availability of meat protein. We know there will be a significant increase in demand for meat in the future, especially from developing countries – but the big question is what producers will need to meet that demand."
He believes the second big challenge facing the industry is disease, which was already causing alarm in Europe, Asia and the USA now and was likely to become an even bigger challenge in future, especially in developing countries – and in his opinion this is closely tied to the ever-important question of sustainability and the need to do more with the resources that will become more limited over time as the population increases.
"For example, we can't expect to get more land for farming in future, but we can find ways to get more out of the land we have at our disposal by optimising resources and I have already decided that this is the route we will be taking as a company, where the product life cycle management – from research and development all the way through to the market and the customer – will be our key to the sustainability of both the company and its customers."
Fraudeau added, "We need to maintain close links with our customers and help them develop their markets, as much as we develop ours."
Asked where he expected to see future growth in demand for animal nutrition products, he said he thought it would include the rapidly growing markets in China, where Novus has been active for the past 12 years, as well as India, where the company first opened an office five years ago and is already the number one animal feed additive supplier and expects to continue to grow with the development of new products.
As far as competition in China is concerned, especially in trace minerals, Fraudeau is confident of success there because he says he is focusing on the high value end of the market.
"I am a believer in science and technology and feel many people are prepared to pay a decent price for quality products. It's a question of value. So, we are positioning our products at the top end of the market in China (where there is less local competition) and not fighting in the low value end of the business. We have now also moved into Africa, which already has close to a billion people and where the population is expected to double within the next 40 years – and they need to improve the use of their resources."
He points out that some of the nations in Africa are already growing rapidly, but they often don't have enough money to import the new products, or new technology they need. He says, "So we think that by being there we can help them develop what they need in their own countries and enhance value together to meet the growing demand for meat protein there."
Although the new Novus chief refused to be drawn on the possibility of opening manufacturing plants there, he did say: "We have already opened offices in South Africa, Morocco, Kenya and Nigeria and we are hoping to develop further there in future, although we know it will be a bumpy road at times."
And he certainly won't just be sitting back in his office in St Charles, where he recently set up home, watching and waiting for all this to happen. This energetic boss, who says he relaxes by going biking with his wife, or skiing, intends to get out there to challenge and inspire as many of his employees and customers around the world as he can.
He says he enjoys travelling and meeting people in the company as well as customers and others in the industry – and he has already booked trips to the company's offices in Taiwan, Japan, China and several European countries to take place before the end of 2014.
But wherever he goes, Fraudeau is likely to be seen as a breath of fresh air, challenging people to develop their skills to help the company grow and achieve his ambitions as soon as possible.
As Novus president and CEO, François Fraudeau is responsible for overall company management and strategic planning functions. A native of France, he graduated with an agricultural engineering degree from Esitpa School of Agricultural Engineering in 1982. He has lived in France and Belgium, and relocated to the Novus headquarters in St Charles, MO, USA in 2011. Prior to his current position, he held various positions within Novus. He joined the company as country manager, France in 1991. The last function he had before becoming president and CEO was to lead the company's specialty business as COO. Fraudeau began his career as a research engineer for Asgrow, a seed company. He then served as area manager for SCPA company and he was sales manager, France for the animal sciences division of Monsanto.
[Source: Pig Progress magazine Vol 30 nr 9,2014]