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Animal Health

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Executive Talk
Nuscience: Bottoms up to good health and nutrition!


Executive Talk

In 2014, Nuscience, specialty division of the Dutch Royal Agrifirm Group and a global player in the animal nutrition industry created two business lines: Nutrition4U and Health4U. Around that time, Nuscience also renewed its focus in the Asia Pacific region, moving beyond its traditional area of expertise in China's home-mixing swine market. In his recent visit to Singapore, LIVESTOCK and FEED Business caught up with Han van der Broek, Business Development Manager Health4U Asia at Nuscience, who shared how the company adopts a bottom-up approach to develop local solutions with customers.


LFB: What is Nuscience's recent focus for the Asia Pacific region?


Nuscience over the course of circa 20 years has an exceptionally strong and formidable presence in China's home-mixing swine market. In 2014 Nuscience decided to have a renewed focus in the Asia Pacific region. This included placing more people in the region to support the Nutrition4U and Health4U business lines, together with the incorporation of our regional office in Singapore on 17th December 2015.  The Singapore office serves as the focal point of our regional operations for the Asia Pacific region, (excluding China). Not only being closer to our customers and partners for order processing and invoicing, but elevating the customer service response of sales, marketing and technical support to a prompt real time experience. Graham Wong based in Singapore, is the statutory director for this regional office and also commercially responsible for the regional Nutrition4U business line. For myself, I am commercially responsible for the Health4U business line for the region. Like Graham and myself, all sales and technical staff in the region travel frequently so as to be closer to our markets. We currently have about 10 people supporting the Asia regional market and have a plan to continually increase resources in focus countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and India. Therefore our expansion in the region, includes optimising our go-to-market channels, to further our strong focus on key account management of integrators, large feed millers and home-mixers in the region.

It is important to build trust with our customers as they not only want to know the solutions that we have but also the company and people behind them. People do make the difference. I sense from my 20 years of experience in the industry that while customers may not always want a direct commercial relationship, they increasingly do want to know the company, the people and the knowledge behind the products.


What is the bottom-up approach to this knowledge behind your solutions?


While many other additive companies might approach product development top down, from a biochemistry or chemistry point of view, a lot of the development at Nuscience is from the bottom up, through staying in touch with customers, understanding the concerns that they have in animal health, reproduction, and young animal performance, and fine-tuning recommendations to lift local performance from a nutritional, technical and economic perspective.


Nuscience has three focus areas of research – gut health, young animal nutrition and reproduction.


As for research into gut health, our focus is on the study of its relationship with antimicrobial resistance. In this regard, apart from providing high quality functional feed ingredients, concentrates and piglet diets, our technical people in the region support our distributors and customers by providing feed formulation advice. Our vets and nutritionists in Europe also provide farm management advice, bringing their experience in practical applications to Southeast Asia in particular.


Young Animal Nutrition solutions remain in the forefront of our research and application developments, as the importance of the good GIT (Gastro Intestinal Tract) health right from birth, contributes to excellence in health, weight gain and optimising the growth rate in alignment to its genetic potential. Such solutions deployed via the Nutrition4U business assist animal producers to potentially realise greater productivity and efficiencies towards earlier and profitable gains.


For reproduction, we have concepts to help improve the immunity and gut health of sows. Customers can either add ingredients individually into their formulation, or we can advise on concentrates to be added on farm. Our solutions have reported to improve sow performance – more piglets born and more piglets weaned per sow. Even in high-performing markets such as Denmark, where swine has more or less met their genetic potential, we have trials documenting up to 10% improvement in piglet performance.


In summary, Nuscience provides nutritional and hands-on expertise in recommending solutions with functional feed ingredients, concentrates and diets for young animals for use in feed mills and on-farm.


It is worth mentioning that we are a member of the Royal Agrifirm Group and the specialty division of this Dutch leading cooperative, with an output of over seven million tonnes of feed and in the 11th place in the global livestock feed companies ranking. Other members of the Group, include Agrifirm Feed (compound feed) and Agrifirm Plant (fertilisers and seeds). Most recently, we are managing the alignment with Agrifirm Group's "Better Together" strategy to further integrate the expertise that Agrifirm Feed has in compound feed with that which Nuscience has in specialty feed ingredients, thus further bringing a collective farm-level nutritional expertise to the world at large and Asia Pacific region specifically.


Please share with us more updates on your business.


As mentioned earlier, about three years ago the Health4U business line was taken on with more emphasis, and Nuscience began to tap into specialty nutrition areas which the company historically has not been so active in.


Following our fifth and latest acquisition in Latin America, Uruguay's market leader in premixes and other nutritional products for dairy and beef cattle, we do have plans to set up our first production facility primarily for Nutrition4U in the Asia Pacific region, outside of China.


In terms of sales performance, Nuscience global turnover has grown tenfold from just 50 million Euros 10 years ago.


We also have our sights on acquisitions and partnerships for both the Nutrition4U and Health4U business lines.


What is your view on the AGP reduction or replacement discussion?


Nuscience follows the One Health global initiative. We already have quite a track record in Europe in producing quality feed without antibiotics. Some five years ago, I found that there was not much discussion on AGP replacement in the wider industry then, with more of the talk coming from suppliers. The tide is turning in Southeast Asia. Vietnam is expected to ban AGPs in compound feed by the end of this year, and Indonesia is planning on doing so too. As such, there is now a heightened urgency to adopt alternative solutions to AGPs and fulfil this real pressing customer need.


There are recognised industry leaders which come to mind when we talk about, say, organic acids, probiotics or phytogenics. Does Nuscience see itself as the industry leader in the MCFA category?


Absolutely. Nuscience is the inventor and patent holder of free MCFAs. We launched Aromabiotic MCFA already in 2000, six years before the European Union ban on AGPs in 2006.


MCFAs are also different from a lot of other products in the market such as short-chain fatty acids. Besides having an antibacterial mode of action, MCFAs have three other modes of action: reducing pathogen virulence, enhancing gut morphology and boosting animal immunity. For piglet diets we would recommend a combination of MCFAs and a pH-reducing product to ensure that the MCFAs stay in their free form. The free MCFAs can easily penetrate and kill bacteria, in contrast to glycerides which are found in other products in the market. To be released as free MCFAs, the latter need to be first broken down by the enzyme lipase, which is only excreted after the stomach. The glyceride forms hardly have any antibacterial property in the stomach. If you don't deal with bacteria in the feed or in the stomach, they can continue to proliferate and feast on the valuable nutrients otherwise available to the animal. This same drawback is valid for calcium salts of MCFAs, which main function is as a bypass energy source for ruminants, but are often conveniently, and mistakenly, used in the same manner as MCFAs. In summary, the Nuscience MCFAs are already effective in the stomach, and kilo for kilo, their antibacterial property is much stronger than other similar products in the market. The Nuscience MCFAs deal with gut health as early as possible in the nutritional approach. They are available in liquid and dry (on a carrier) forms and different formulations.


Nuscience has been and will also continue to look into more product blends of MCFAs with other compounds such as phytogenic and fibrous compounds. Specifically, Vita GP is a product blend of MCFAs and a fibrous compound discovered by Nuscience. This fibre compound is a soluble, but non-fermentable fibre, it can bind to harmful bacteria with a flagellum, washing them out from the animal's gut and lowering the bacterial load. We are the only supplier of this active compound. Vita GP is a very cost-effective solution. We have high expectations for it in the Asia Pacific region.


Another innovative solution that has been recently launched is Q-prove, a nutritional solution that can help broiler producers overcome the issue of wooden breast, an issue that results in significant financial losses for poultry farmers, integrators and slaughterhouses.


Is there any final advice you might wish to share with our readers?


As Europe historically has a competitive advantage in terms of reducing the use of antibiotics in feed and livestock production, the industry does look at Europe for good reason. It is possible to make the change, but it would be overly ambitious to do it overnight. If for example companies in Vietnam only start looking at antibiotic alternatives when legislation kicks in next year, would they be able to fix things in time?


Another advice I would like to share is: don't judge solutions only on price. What is actually cheaper? In some countries cola is cheaper than bottled water. One must find a suitable benchmark. So I would advise nutritionists, vets and buyers to ensure, first and foremost, that any product has a well-documented mode of action, supported not only by company data, but also independent research. Then proof of concept on farm is just as important. For every solution developed, Nuscience conducts quite a number of trials and performs meta-analysis involving various species and applications. These all add up to determine the true efficacy of the solution. Judge a product based on its return on investment. And when you are in a financially tight situation, don't be pressured to take out additives from your formulation, or risk being penny wise, pound foolish.


Another challenge is that customers often have to deal with different offers from different suppliers. I often see overlapping functionalities in products used, and some may even be antagonistic. I would suggest being open to sharing information and feed formulations, so that suppliers can provide better insight into local feed formulations and offer better advice. We at Nuscience treat all disclosure of information with the highest level of confidentiality, and on building trust and strong relationships.


Lastly, I would like to share that the mycotoxin threat is very closely linked with gut health. There was a customer who apparently did not achieve good results with our MCFA products; we later found that their feeds were being contaminated with mycotoxins. We had long recognised this relationship and launched our toxin binder range a number of years ago. We are now also one of the few companies in the market which have solutions (Vitafix Plus and Vitafix Ultra) which can deactivate the mycotoxin DON. We are also continuing to expand our rapid mycotoxin analysis offering, Quantitox, which has a processing time of just 20 to 30 minutes, through our national and local distributors.


Nuscience's state-of-the-art plant in Drongen, Belgium

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