Insta-Pro International®: A nutrition-based equipment company
The pioneer of the high shear dry extruder, Insta-Pro Intl has gone on to develop innovative and flexible solutions to improve animal performance for its customers.
by Ngai Meng CHAN
Requiring neither steam nor an external heat source, and cooking soybeans in less than 30 seconds - that is the "Insta-Pro" or "Instant Processing" extruder which was invented in 1969 by Triple "F", Inc., an animal nutrition company founded in 1961. Nearly 40 years later in 2008, Triple "F", Inc. sold its Insta-Pro International division to Heartland Agri Partners, LLC (HAP), based in Iowa, USA.
Today, Karl Arnold is Vice President, Marketing and Sales of Insta-Pro Intl and a co- owner of Heartland Agri Partners, LLC. Karl recently spoke to LIVESTOCK and FEED Business in January at the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Karl says that the invention of the high shear dry extruder has better enabled the feed milling industry worldwide to control the quality and reduce the cost of feed produced. Increasingly, Karl adds, as conventional ingredients rise in costs, feed millers are blending alternative protein ingredients together and the high shear dry extruder serves their purpose well. Ultimately, things are done to improve the feed performance of animals. Karl cites many examples of how customers are requesting to achieve specific performance levels from feeding their animals. Producers need a variety of solutions as they look to increase egg case weight, improve milk yield or to produce meat, milk or eggs with specific market traits, and using Insta-Pro Intl extrusion technologies helps the producer to achieve these objectives.
Soon after the invention of the high shear dry extruder, and along with the demand to reduce the cost of protein ingredients, one option provided by the industry since the 1970s has been the use of urea as a source of non-protein nitrogen (NPN) for ruminant micro-flora. The product was initially marketed by Insta-Pro under the name "Golden Pro®".
According to Karl, another key milestone for Insta-Pro in the 1970s was the development of equipment and solutions for blending various grains and soy products to produce cooked cereals for baby animals.
Then in the 1980s, they applied high shear, dry extrusion technology to develop sterile feed and food products through the processing of waste or secondary resources from the food and feed industries; as well as meat-based by-products that are blended with dry, locally available ingredients prior to extrusion. The extruder will cook, sterilise and stabilise the by-products into novel feed ingredients.
In the 1990s, Insta-Pro collaborated with the University of Illinois for its International Soybean Program aimed at introducing soy in the diets of people in underdeveloped countries. For example, the fat content of some soy products need to be reduced before they are used in baking. The collaboration led to the innovative combination of the oil press with the extruder, which was trademarked the "ExPress® System". With the new system, mechanically-defatted soy protein could be economically produced for the food industry. The process simultaneously extracts vegetable oil, which is beneficial for countries that cannot afford the cost and technical complexity of conventional solvent extraction, according to the company. Whereas the initial focus was to internationally promote ExPress® technology for producing low-fat soy flour, it soon became a popular application in the feed industry as well. And was expanded to other oilseeds.
Insta-Pro continued to be focused on developing equipment and solutions for the food industry into the new millennium, and its extrusion technology was applied to create textured soy protein, soy flour and other food-type products.
More importantly for the feed industry, the hugely successful high shear dry extruder lead to the development of a medium shear extruder, primarily for the pet food and aqua feed industries. The high shear extruder is suitable for producing stable and digestible feed ingredients from raw products and the single-screw medium shear extruder is suitable for producing a wider range and size of pellets (1.5mm +) from ingredients which are commonly found in the pet food and aqua feed industries, according to Karl.
Today, Insta-Pro continues to be focussed on its customers and on animal nutrition in its research and product development.
"We continue to increase our investment in R&D with plans to spend 50% more in 2016 compared to previous year. For challenges that our customers face, we communicate directly with the customer to develop a clear understanding and then create solutions for them. Additionally, our field sales team will provide guidance on opportunities and challenges, which will then be part of our R&D strategy. We will continue to enhance the efficiency of our oil extraction, which we will expand its use to other oilseeds. For our medium shear extruder, we will expand its use in food, shaped feed and aqua feed, Karl elaborates.
He is quick to give some examples of how the company's research and product development is structured around the customer's needs and challenges.
"We had international customers who bought our machine for one application and the market changed on them. The customer then asked us, "What other products can I make with the extruder?" So we helped them to analyse the market and the products which were locally available. We recommended them to use the same machine to develop a new product by blending together localised ingredients, and they have since increased their capacity by eight times in that operation.
We have other customers who use the same pet food extruder to make fish feed, and our medium shear extruder is versatile to suit their purpose," Karl points out.
For specific groups of customers who are concerned with animal welfare, they will be assured to know that the company's processes are mechanical and chemical-free. For instance, Insta-Pro's ExPress® System provides the capability to extract or remove vegetable oil without using chemicals, an advantage over conventional solvent extraction. Moreover, such customers also have greater demand for the efficiency of feed ingredients, Karl says, and the Insta-Pro high shear extruder and other similar technologies afford the higher digestibility required.
Indeed, the company "plays very well" in developing and mature markets where there is a need for controlling feed costs and improved feed efficiency. In those markets and other markets internationally, Insta-Pro provides extensive and customized before and after-sales services.
Before-sales services include: analyzing the feasibility of business opportunities, providing layouts and quotations for supply of the complete plant needs.
After-sales services include: having technicians on-site for at least a week to conduct equipment start-up and training, providing a free follow-up visit after one year of installation, having service technicians and spare parts readily available, providing linkages for sources of grains and oilseeds as well to link to end users of extruded products, and hosting an active blog as part of a service component offered by Insta-Pro. Most recently, Insta-Pro has redesigned their website to improve navigation in the languages of their key markets.
Within Southeast Asia, the company has a strong market presence in the Philippines, helped by the long-term relationships forged there by its former parent company in selling feed ingredients. Insta-Pro also has business activities in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and throughout Asia.