[Interview] BIOMIN MD Looks at Industry Concerns and World Nutrition Forum Take-Home Messages

Dr. Jan Vanbrabant, Managing Director of BIOMIN and CEO of ERBER Group explained how BIOMIN supports the industry in a press conference during the event: “Our goal has always been to support sustainable agriculture, now and in the future … Our main contribution to sustainability is the application of our solutions in livestock”, he said.

Shortly after the WNF, Feedinfo News Service touched base with Dr. Vanbrabant to discuss some of the event’s highlights and reflect on some of the company’s developments in the past year.

[Feedinfo News Service] Dr. Vanbrabant, why was it important for you to host the WNF in South Africa this time? What parallels can be drawn between the ideas put forward during the WNF and BIOMIN’s own strategy in African markets?

[Jan Vanbrabant] At this 8th World Nutrition Forum, a scientific congress which takes place every two years, we hosted 800 delegates from 76 countries, and over 40 experts shared their views. Our choice to host the event in South Africa gives us the opportunity to reflect on the future when it comes to the broader economy, our industry and BIOMIN as a company. By 2050 a quarter of the world’s population will live in Africa. While Asia has been the economic engine in recent years, Africa could likely emerge as a second one. It has huge potential. The consumption of meat, eggs and dairy will accelerate dramatically, creating business opportunities throughout the feed and food chain.

We have been serving clients in sub-Saharan Africa starting with a dedicated business unit in 2011. We’ve had growing success in serving feed and animal producers in South Africa and made investments in staff and capabilities to extend the BIOMIN solutions offering to other sub-Saharan markets. On October 2, we also hosted the kick-off of the MycoSafe-South project to combat mycotoxins in the region. Our participation in that effort is designed to drastically reduce mycotoxin exposure in animals and limit mycotoxin carryover into food products. It is one example of the many concurrent activities conducted by our R&D teams in conjunction with a global network of 200 universities and research institutions.

[Feedinfo News Service] What were the main concerns/market challenges in the minds of the Cape Town audience?

[Jan Vanbrabant] Different markets are facing their own specific challenges, depending on the species and region of the globe. The topics varied, ranging from tariffs and potential trade wars, to how to maintain competitiveness, ways to apply new scientific knowledge and technologies, addressing environmental and welfare concerns and reducing the application of antibiotics in food-producing animals. But it is possible to situate all of those topics under one umbrella: the need for sustainability. Sustainability means delivering win-win outcomes that benefit people, the environment and the economy. At BIOMIN, it has always been our mission to promote natural, novel technologies to support a sustainable agriculture sector. We do this by leveraging considerable scientific knowledge to enhance animal health and performance profitably. That is a core idea that we apply everywhere on the globe.

One clear message that was expressed that can apply to all market players is that the main challenge we’re facing is how to support animal gut integrity and gut health, which drives performance and profitability. Success with that business driver has numerous benefits, e.g. less disease prevalence, better efficiency, improved environmental footprint, greater food security.

[Feedinfo News Service] What were the main future market opportunities for Biomin and the industry in general discussed at this year’s WNF?

[Jan Vanbrabant] The plenary session moved from an economic and market outlook, to the most promising new ag-tech tools. Several technological developments have advanced at a remarkable pace in recent years—including mycotoxin detection, next-generation sequencing and Farm 4.0 tools.

The gut performance session emphasized recent scientific research and trends in regards to the prevalence of antibiotic resistance on farms and preventive, holistic methods to reduce antibiotics in farm animals. The mycotoxin session brought to light how climate change may shift mycotoxin contamination patterns, how statistical models enable us to predict likely mycotoxin challenges before the samples from a harvest are tested, and the newest development in our research and development of mycotoxin-deactivating recombinant enzymes.

The ruminants break out session had a number of take-home messages. All major exporters have challenges to meet low cost of extra production. Globally, there are socio-economic and cultural challenges: companies must respect the license to operate, which repeats the need for sustainability. On the animal side, we explored the immune system and gut health particularly in the transition period. There is a clear cost to leaky gut –there’s more science that has been done in the monogastrics in this respect— and this is exacerbated during heat stress.

For poultry, the discussion focused on antibiotic reduction. Several major players in North America have shifted anywhere from 70% to 100% of their output to ‘No Antibiotics Ever’ (NAE) production in recent years. This makes it important to maintain performance and overcome key pathogenic challenges such as coccidiosis, necrotic enteritis, Salmonellosis, etc. A tailored combination of strategies that includes synbiotics, organic acids, phytogenic, mycotoxin deactivators and vaccines can achieve this in conjunction with proper biosecurity and management.

For swine, antibiotic reduction and disease management, along with closing low birth weight gaps were hot topics. Our research team evaluated the current state of biomarkers for mycotoxicosis, and concluded that further work is needed to make these methods commercially practical.

Finally, in aquaculture, antibiotic reduction and the replacement of fishmeal and fish oil in diets continued to dominate the discussion—as mycotoxins make their presence in feed felt to a greater extent in both cases. Our participation in the fish-free feeding (F3) competition last year attests to the commercial viability of fish-free diets for fish and shrimp.

[Feedinfo News Service] In late September 2018, BIOMIN broke ground on a new manufacturing facility in Austria, which is scheduled to begin operating in December 2019. Can you talk about your ambitions for this plant? And in November 2017, you opened a manufacturing plant in Wuxi, China. How is this plant coping with market demand from China?

[Jan Vanbrabant] We are excited to build a facility in the proximity of our existing production unit. While we are pursuing growth in all markets, it is important to point out that we still see room to expand in our home market of Europe. Moreover, as a private, family owned firm, our shareholders have affirmed their wish for BIOMIN to remain independent and pursue a constant rate of growth for the foreseeable future. That is clearly ambitious, because as the organization becomes bigger, scale comes into play—yet we remain confident. We see growth opportunities in many parts of the world, and we have just created separate dedicated regional business units for Africa and for China.

The new production facility in Wuxi has enabled us to extend advanced mycotoxin detection service to Chinese customers and to meet the growing demand for Mycofix®. Our solutions offering continues to grow alongside our customer base, and we have further plans to add to that portfolio, with an emphasis on gut performance technologies.

[Feedinfo News Service] One of the highlights for BIOMIN this past year was also the overall increase in global uptake of the gut performance portfolio. Can you tell us more about the success of PoultryStar® and the global roll-out of Digestarom® DC, a phytogenic feed additive, in 2018?

[Jan Vanbrabant] As a microbiologist, I honestly believe that PoultryStar® is the best poultry probiotic on the market, and its commercial success can be seen as a reflection of that. It is the only multi-strain probiotic with EU authorization, and the strains themselves were identified from the gastrointestinal tract of healthy birds—meaning that it is “from poultry, for poultry.”

In the years soon after its founding in 1983, BIOMIN had already introduced a probiotic premix to the Austrian market, which was marketed as an antibiotic-free feeding solution. This was in many ways very ahead of its time, and there’s no direct line from that product to PoultryStar®. However, it shows the direction of BIOMIN from the outset was to offer natural solutions that support a sustainable and profitable livestock industry.

Regarding Digestarom® DC we continue to bring the power of plant-based substances to the protein industry. The novelty of this product is that it combines the best of both worlds when it comes to phytogenic substances, encouraging feed uptake and delivering bioactive ingredients to targeted areas of the gastrointestinal tract with the aim of enhancing feed conversion. The initial introduction of Digestarom® DC at VIV Asia garnered a lot of interest and customers in Asia Pacific markets have adopted it. Since then, we have submitted EU dossiers for zootechnical authorization for piglets and broilers, and these are under review.

We are proceeding with the global roll-out, which is still in progress. In November we will launch Digestarom® DC at EuroTier for swine, poultry and feed customers in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and later carry on to the Western hemisphere to complete the worldwide campaign.

[Feedinfo News Service] 2019 is approaching fast. What can we expect from BIOMIN’s R&D teams next year?

[Jan Vanbrabant] We continue to work on our portfolio of mycotoxin-degrading recombinant enzymes, or mycozymes, of which FUMzyme® was the first commercial example—and a clear success. We are looking at further development and extension of the mycozyme concept, as well as alternative applications e.g. for bioethanol or silage.

Our application of –Omics technologies in the context of Farm 4.0 will proceed, as we have invested in a trial facility equipped with metabolic units along with the IT and bioinformatics infrastructure to analyze the data that is generated.

Furthermore, we are finalizing agreements for a new ruminant trial facility in the United States, which will become the latest addition to our Centers for Animal Nutrition (CAN) global network.

This interview was first published on www.feedinfo.com.