Billy Frey is on a mission to link Alltech's expertise in agriculture with the next generation of farm leaders who are its natural market — and the concerned consumers who will be eating their products.
That's why Frey is spending a substantial amount of his workweek at the downtown Lexington headquarters of iHigh, where he oversees Alltech's 3-month-old Ag Network at the online video company, which includes content from the Future Farmers of America. The Nicholasville-based animal health and nutrition company also oversees the Alltech Arts Network at iHigh. (Pearse Lyons, founder of Alltech, is a devotee of the vocal arts.)
While the numbers of those watching the networks are now only in the hundreds, Alltech and Frey have big plans for the networks' future.
The Alltech Ag Network is owned in a 50 percent split between Alltech and iHigh.
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"It really fits Alltech's ethos," Frey said. "We have this ethos of marketing through education."
Frey said Alltech sees its future marketing in ways that would not have been possible for future farmers' parents or grandparents.
Before signing on to iHigh, Frey said, Alltech asked itself how it could tell the world its story directly and effectively. An Internet venture made sense because it allowed Alltech to not only market to food producers, but explain best practices on growing food directly to consumers.
By partnering with iHigh on making FFA more high-profile, "FFA doesn't have to take a back seat to football or basketball," Frey said.
Call it an exposure economy of scale.
"You have 9 million different people watching something on iHigh over the course of the year," Frey said.
Some of those are bound to click over to the Alltech Ag Network, he said. Some will text the information to their friends, and others may mention it to some of the millions of FFA alumni.
"We don't want to push it on people," Frey said. "We want them to ask for it."
And hence the 21st-century marketing campaign — site surfing to text messaging — will make itself felt in eyes on the screen and clicks of the mouse.
In the future, Frey said, farmers might be able to buy cattle online, saving valuable transportation dollars.
"We could have the cattle auction channel," he said.
In the meantime, FFA students can learn video production and hosting techniques and business skills from selling online ads.
The ag network aims to have 500,000 unique visitors in 2012, Frey said: "If we got that, that would be huge. ... That would be a big, big media company."
The demographics look promising, with 49 percent of viewers younger than 24 — the next generation of farmers — already plugged in.
Alltech is also banking on equestrian and rodeo business, building on the equine credibility it earned as sponsor of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park.
FFA "helps us into the high schools to provide good agriculture content," Frey said.