There’s a good chance you will recognise a lot of the ‘faces’ of Thompsons, from different articles in the farming press, or from shows or farmer’s meetings. And when they’re on-farm they are usually the ones asking all the questions: How many cows are dry? What’s your stocking rate? What’s your dung consistency like?
So, we decided it was time to put the spotlight on them for a change and first in the hot tractor seat is our Technical Director, Sam Smyth.
Job title: Technical Director – Which means that I am responsible for all aspects of Feed Safety & Quality. I also provide a technical function for all aspects of Monogastric Feed, Feed Manufacture and the company’s Research & Development program.
Years of service: I have been in the agriculture industry now for almost 26 years, with a total of 15 years with Thompsons, nine years at the start of my career and six years in my current role.
Academic pathway: I went to Moorfields Primary School, just outside Ballymena, then Ballymena Academy and Queens University Belfast, where I qualified with a joint-honours in Biochemistry and Animal Nutrition.
Industry experience: My first job after university was a two-year fixed contract as a research assistant for the Forestry Service, after which I applied for and got the position of Trainee Formulator at Thompsons, where I spent the next nine years. In that time I progressed through a role in formulation, to Monogastric Nutritionist and finally to Quality Assurance Manager. I then moved to the NI Environment Agency, working for the Industrial Pollution Prevention and Control department as a Senior Scientific Officer managing IPPC licenses for Pig & Poultry Farms and Feedmills.
In 2005 I started with Devenish Nutrition as a Poultry Technical Sales Manager, then moving to Poultry Sales Director a few years later. During this time at Devenish I looked after all the commercial, nutritional and technical requirements for a growing customer base in UK & Ireland. In May 2014 I returned to Thompsons, taking up the role of Business Development Manager and more recently moving into my current role of Technical Director.
A ‘normal’ working day: There’s no such thing as a normal working day! One of the good things about my role is I have good range of cross functional responsibilities. I could be visiting a pig farm discussing diets and growth rates, discussing feed safety with a major retailer, demonstrating how Thompsons have been able to reduce ammonia emissions from livestock or working with mill process engineers to see how we could improve some aspect of the feed milling process. It’s a fast-moving business with no two days the same.
A ‘normal’ non-working day: Non-working days still involve a degree of work, whether it’s around the house and garden or at our small family farm, I always prefer to be busy and outdoors if possible.
Favourite animal and why: Must be a pig! They are intelligent, versatile, productive and efficient. Not a bad set of traits to have?!
What would your room 101 item be and why: Hair driers! Living in a house with my wife and two teenage daughters, I seem to wake up and go to bed with the sound of hair driers most days.
Favourite meal: After a long week, nothing beats a Saturday night take-away curry.
Favourite tv show: Not one specific favourite show, but I will watch anything to do with the natural world, food or farming and most sports.
Favourite book: I am not a big book person, but one book I was given and read was “The Story of the Human Body,” by Daniel Lieberman. A book looking at how historic changes in diet, health and disease have shaped how we live and farm today.
What advice would you give to a young school leaver hoping to get into the agricultural industry: Give focus to the practical aspects as well as the academic aspects of your education and training. Get as much hands-on work in the industry as you can and work hard. A good work ethic and practical experience are always things employers look out for.
Best advice you’ve ever been given: Probably from my dad, it was “measure twice and cut once.” This is great advice not only for doing a bit of DIY, but very relevant for safe animal feed manufacture. A logical, well thought through, risk-based approach is key to delivering high performing, cost effective and safe animal feed.
What is one thing that not many people would know about you and might find surprising: I could have had a very different career path if I had taken an opportunity offered up by a family member many years ago. She worked as a missionary in Zaire, Africa (Democratic Rep. of Congo) and offered me the chance to come with her to help develop local farming practices. A real worthwhile opportunity missed.
Thanks Sam, great job
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