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FAI Summit Success

Dr. Peter Ferket FAI Summit

In hindsight, organizing a uniquely-formatted, multi-species symposium during a global pandemic was quite risky, but Dr. Peter Ferket and Dr. Sean Chen agree they are so glad they did. 

Hosted by NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Food Animal Initiative, the Food Animal Initiative (FAI) Summit was indeed a success this past September. Combining three separate conferences – the Carolina Feed Industry Association (CFIA) Fall Conference, the Animal Health and Nutrition Consortium (AHNC) Symposium, and the Precision Animal Systems (PAS) Symposium – created a much-needed sense of “normalcy” and provided a valuable exchange of knowledge.

Benefits Abound


One of the largest benefits of bringing three target audiences together in person was the interaction between various industry attendees. During coffee breaks and lunch, inside the poster presentation hall, even during the conference itself, people were meeting around tables and engaging in collaborative discussions. 

Those in attendance included animal production industry nutrition professionals, academic and industry professionals with a primary focus on animal health and nutrition using precision technologies as well as those with a primary focus on the application of precision technology.

“Each symposium retained its unique identity but allowed for meeting the needs of all of our participants. [We were able to] combine three separate conferences into one global summit of compatible interests,” Dr. Ferket adds.

While overall attendance was lower compared to prior conferences, 175 participants were enthusiastically engaged both virtually and in person. For many of the 85% of those participants who attended in person, this was the first business trip and first time gathering with colleagues since the pandemic began in early 2020. Dr. Ferket considers this the “most joyous part of the whole event. Because of enthusiasm, [there was] a unique spirit of what it means to be part of an academic and industry community where people get together to exchange ideas.”

Grad Students 

Graduate students, who were offered free registration, benefited immensely as the summit was a good learning experience from both practical and academic standpoints. It allowed them to “visualize what it is like to be in the industry working with industry and academic professionals,” says Dr. Ferket. 

A graduate student poster competition drew 17 poster presentations. Four industry and academic experts evaluated the content and selected the following winners: Vitor H.C. Moita, Animal Science, in the Feed and Nutrition category; and Sophie Chance, Poultry Science, in the Health and Disease category.


With general sessions led by keynote speakers, species breakout sessions, student poster presentations with one-on-one meetings, and social breaks, the summit provided a wealth of learning and networking opportunities. 

For participants, attending a multi-species – poultry, dairy, and swine – conference was a unique and rewarding experience. Dr. Ferket explains that the agenda offered the flexibility “to attend the simultaneous presentations of their choice, so they could get a multi-species experience if they like. With access to recorded presentations after the conference, they could even further fulfill their interests if they could not do it during the summit.”

Fifteen percent of the participants attended virtually, making the FAI Summit the first conference nationally in food animal science that was truly hybrid. In addition to providing each registrant with access to watch recorded sessions, organizers plan to produce an on-demand broadcast of the presentations to be released next spring, along with a preview of the next FAI Summit.

The Summit’s Future

With so much positive feedback and attendees already looking forward to next year, organizers believe this will be an annual event, with this year’s format continuing in the future. “This model of combining three symposia with some simultaneous presentation overlap allowed us to draw more participants with a diversity of interests, and allowed for a more enriching experience for all with dynamic interactions during the social events,” explains Dr. Ferket. 

CFIA has already confirmed they want to be a part of next year’s event. The summit allows organizers the flexibility to feature different symposia that are relevant and topical for the food animal sector. 

For example, a section on aquaculture may be added to meet another need of the NC food animal industry. Potential future symposia topics include: matters of environmental sustainability and climate change, animal welfare and behavior, gut health and enteric microbiome, analytics, and communicating food animal agriculture for the social good.

Thank You, Sponsors

The FAI Summit could not have occurred without the financial and organizational support of NC State Food Animal Initiative, North Carolina Biotechnology Center, and Carolina Feed Industry Association. Other sponsors include Iluma Alliance, CJ Foods, BRI, and Alltech.