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Willy Goossens and Andrea Biondi Visit Alberta

In December 2019, Alpha Phenomics welcomed Andrea Biondi, CEO of Biondi Engineering, and Willy Goossens, CEO of Food IT-Solutions, to experience all that Alberta has to offer and to meet several collaborators in both Calgary and Edmonton. Both Biondi and Goossens are experts in their fields, and have created innovative hardware, software, algorithms and processing methods that are integral to Alpha Phenomics’ vision of providing a more efficient method of animal protein production. The Alpha Phenomics team and their industry partners were thrilled to have the opportunity to get to know Biondi and Goossens in person, and to give them a tour of the best of Alberta’s board rooms (as well as a few culinary hot spots).

As the duo visited from December 9 to 12, they had a few nail-biting moments when travelling the slippery ice-covered QE2 between the two cities. However, they also found time between meetings to share in another common passion — food! Alpha Phenomics CEO Jack Behan took Biondi and Goossens out to brunch at OEB Breakfast Co. during their stay, where they filled the table with delicious breakfast fare (if you want to follow in their footsteps, we recommend the duck leg & waffle — it’s the perfect combination of sweet and savory). After several hours of meetings, the trio refueled yet again with an item beloved by many Albertans: a juicy Alberta beef burger. Biondi and Goossens balanced a packed schedule filled with both work and play. When asked about his perception of Edmonton after the visit, Biondi said “I had the impression of an orderly and sparkling university city, where many different cultures and experiences can positively merge together.” We couldn’t agree more!

Since we weren’t able to fit meetings with every Edmontonian into the duo’s packed schedule (or find a board room big enough to accommodate all 972,223 residents), we decided the next best thing would be to share a bit more about the two experts we’re excited to work with going forward with our audience. Fun fact: both men are big animal lovers and listed their respective dogs as their favorite animals. Goossens has a dog named Nelson, and Biondi had a dog named Blackie.

Willy Goossens got his first taste of the food processing industry when he was just 14 years old. He worked in the meat processing industry during every school break, and his hands-on experience led him to start looking for a way to optimise shop floor procedures. Eventually, he developed his own software, IC-trace, to fill a need he saw in the market. Goossens grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, and his combination of experience and entrepreneurial vision has been integral to the success of his company, Food IT-Solutions. The company is focused on software for food manufacturers and slaughterhouses, and Willy remains passionate about developing innovative and sustainable solutions for the food industry. Besides the delectable meals he enjoyed, Goossen commented that his favorite part of his visit to Alberta was “the meetings with all [the] interesting and positive people, each a specialist in their domain.”

Andrea Biondi, CEO of Biondi Engineering, was a lecturer of technical physics at the University of Rome as well as an entrepreneur. As the CEO, Biondi is the primary mind behind the hardware, software solutions and intellectual property the company has to offer. He also has wide-ranging expertise in programming languages, electronic and mechanical design and simulation software, deep learning systems for artificial intelligence and more. His company, which is based in Switzerland, focuses on developing new, disruptive technologies for breeders. He’s never afraid to think outside the box — even when it comes to explaining his products in a meeting. Alpha Phenomics business development manager Jaime Chabillon recalled an incident in a meeting where Biondi demonstrated how one of his cameras worked by placing a chair on a board room table to act as a “fence” and selecting a meeting attendee to act as the “bull” in the hypothetical situation. Talk about an interactive explanation!

Each group of individuals that Goossens and Biondi met with were eager to learn more about their companies, and had unique questions to pose to the visitors. International collaborations can come with their own set of zany misunderstandings, such as when one meeting participant continually heard “udder” when Biondi said “other” due to his Italian accent, a particularly risky mix-up in the bovine industry! However, the duo left having laid the framework for a fruitful and exciting relationship in the year to come. “One of Alpha Phenomics’ objectives will be to bring together the best of know-how in genomics and phenomics in order to push with the maximum energy the research activities in developing disruptive technological solutions in these sectors,” Biondi said. “The effects on a global level are enormous in terms of increased animal welfare, of management of health problems, of efficiency in production processes, in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, in optimal genetic selection, etc. This is a game changer and is tremendously exciting.”

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