New dairy expo built to be national industry showcase

The stage is set and a new large-scale dairy tradeshow is scheduled for Ontario in February 2013, with an eye on attracting a national following.

The inaugural Canadian Dairy XPO (CDX), scheduled to take place in Stratford Feb. 6-7, is billed as a first-time event for Canada, where the width and breadth of the dairy industry, including a focus on consumers, will gather in one location.

The idea for the CDX has been in the works for nearly 10 years, according to Jordon Underhill, general manager and one of the founders of the event, whose ROI Event Management company in recent years launched another agrifood trade show, Canada’s Fruit and Veg Tech X-Change.

Underhill has been working with co-founder Talo Tamminga, who worked for nine years as manager of Lely North America, and is credited with introducing robotic milking to the continental dairy industry. The two businessmen based their vision of this trade show on the World Dairy Expo, held annually in Madison, Wis.

"The focus of that show has been on pure dairy, and it’s very impressive," said Underhill. "But it also had us asking some very important questions, like ‘Why don’t we have an event like this in Canada?’"

That marked the beginning of the process, with Underhill and Tamminga working proactively and co-operatively to attract partners for the endeavour. And they’ve accomplished a great deal, especially within an increasingly competitive agrifood/agribusiness sector.

Some might conclude the World Dairy Expo is competition to the CDX, but Underhill maintains that there is room — and demand — for both exhibitions.

The same spirit of co-operation can be seen in bringing together the other founding partners, most of whom are competitors. Yet they are combining their talents and strategic thinking for the benefit of dairy producers, who are looking for more information and resources to help them maintain quality and profitability.

According to Underhill, the CDX has been built on four pillars:

  • as a trade show where dairy-focused companies can join and participate;
  • to provide continuing education for producers. Underhill made specific mention of the importance of this facet and that the first day’s events will feature speakers, demonstrations and workshop-style events;
  • to offer live animal displays (producers love looking at cows, said Underhill, and they’ll be able to see robotic milking and "dairy daughter" genetics displays); and
  • to create a bridge between consumers and producers, a notion widely accepted as missing from the current food value chain but seldom, if ever, addressed within the confines of a trade show.

Another unique property of the CDX will be a trilingual format, with operations in English, French and Dutch.

The choice of Stratford as the site for the event is also strategic, given its placement within the Ontario dairy industry’s heartland; within an hour’s drive of the city, there are nearly 3,000 medium- to large-scale dairy operations. And that number is said to be growing.

Underhill noted that Stratford also provides some cultural cache with the world-class Shakespearean festival, and there is a growing reputation for the city as a growth centre for business. It also helps that the city’s Rotary Complex can accommodate a trade show of this size.

Several representatives of the participating partners were also on hand for the announcement including Brian O’Connell of EastGen, a partner in the Semex Global Alliance, Herman DeBoer of Jay-lor, Alan Lajeunesse from Holstein Canada and Kathryn Kyle of Jersey Canada.

Jack Rodenburg of DairyLogix, who enjoys a reputation as "the Dairy Professor," has also signed on to impart his 34 years of experience in the dairy industry to the tradeshow.

— Ralph Pearce is a field editor for Country Guide at St. Marys, Ont.