FEED Business Worldwide - August, 2011
Aveve Biochem: Optimising animal nutrition
A division of Belgium's largest feed producer, Aveve Biochem is keynoted by years of experience in applied research, biochemistry and enzyme technology. Dr. Erik Vanderbeke, Aveve Biochem's R&D director, discusses Aveve's achievements in product development and his expectations for Asia's feed enzyme market. 
How has Aveve Biochem evolved over the years?
 Aveve Biochem originated from the internal biotechnology research department of Aveve Animal Feed. This research department focused on specific additive products with potential interest for Aveve Animal Feeds. It comprised basic research at universities, internal characterisation and evaluation of feed additives' effects in animal trials in the Experimental Animal Station of Aveve, starting in 1987.  Analysis methods for enzyme activity were developed and validated in-house.
Why was Aveve Biochem interested in developing Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT)?
The MCT research was part of a fundamental research on enzymes at the University of Ghent in the mid 90s, which evaluated the effect of lipase enzymes on different fat sources. The development of the MCT concept and patent application was a result of the research with fistulated piglets which validated the effect of MCT on the bacterial flora in stomach, small and large intestine.Based on the original effects on the microbiota, the product was optimised and validated in performance trials in the years before the antibiotic ban in Europe, which started in 2006.
How significant are essentials oils and what are their still untapped promising possibilities?
Essential oils are an expanding group of additives in animal nutrition.Their antibacterial effects have  been demonstrated in many scientific research papers. Recently, more data become available about their efficacy in animal nutrition and performance. The challenge for the feed producer today is the large number of products, their standardization and the availability of efficacy data at economical feasible dosages in animal feeds.
How popular is the usage of essential oils in Asia relative to other feed supplements?
Essential oils are clearly a growing market and they become important especially in these markets where the feed industry wants to reduce antibiotic use.
What are the Aveve Biochem's recent achievements in product development?
 Recent achievements are the development and validation of broad spectrum and high activity enzyme concepts for animal nutrition. The synergetic effects of MCT with specific essential oils, allowing lower dosing and cost for the application of these specialities in animal feeds, is regarded as another achievement. An important research result is the regulating effect of MCT on the immune system of the animals, which implies that more energy becomes available for their growth.
Name institutions that Aveve collaborates with and why?
 Our R&D takes an important part of our overall costs. We collaborate mainly with universities in Belgium, Europe and several Asian countries. For basic research, the collaborations are mainly European. For product validation and optimisation, we work in Europe as well as in Asian countries. For instance, we work together with Asian universities when the knowledge and facilities are more advanced than in Europe.  We are convinced that the local feed raw materials, animal genetics and environmental conditions have to be taken into account when validating products.
What challenges do you face in Asian aquaculture and aqua feed markets?
 Yes of course, aquaculture and aqua feeds are markets which are well developed in Asian countries. As mentioned above, we collaborate with universities and research partners who have the necessary background for these applications. Some of the implications for this market segment are the differences in processing parameters of some of these feeds, differences in digestion systems of different species, other environmental stresses and pathogens, and the physical quality aspects of the feeds when put into the water.
What are Aveve Biochem's goals for the Asia Pacific region?
We apply a technical approach because our products are technical specialities and we can offer them, supported by our feed expertise. We also invest increasingly in branding trough publications, symposia and feed fairs.
How do the problems and needs of agribusiness in Asia differ from that of the European market?
Depending of the market and the country, some feed specialities are already known and used, and others aren't yet. Also, the use of feed specialities during particular stages of the animal production candiffer. Another difference can be the "accepted" concepts in the different countries.
As Asia's livestock industries, do you think integrators will establish their own enzyme production?
The enzyme production industry in China is already important. There is a trend towards large integrated livestock companies which take over, acquire shares or have a strategic link with enzyme producing companies.
However, it is also a matter of focus for these integrated feed companies. Enzyme production will be viable if the products are also sold outside of the integrated companies, and this will need the set-up of a specialised sales team and focus on the marketing and sales of these enzymes.
When it comes to production costs, delocalisation is possible but secrecy and protection of know-how can be a concern. As enzymes are very concentrated products after fermentation and downstream processing, we see in a first step a delocalisation of the end product formulation (enzyme formulation, premix production), yielding advantages in logistics and transport costs.
When servicing clients, what resources Aveve Biochem does leverage to optimise feed formulations?
First, we have a long tradition of feed formulation with many different raw materials. Since Belgium has a small area, most of the raw materials for feed production are imported. We are very familiar with many by-products like tapioca, palm kernel meal, copra meal, and rice bran besides the more standard raw materials like wheat, corn, peas, and sorghum which we have used for many years in our own feed formulations. There are large grain processing factories in Europe which have delivered by-products to the feed industry for many years.
Secondly, for many years, we combine this large variety of raw materials with speciality additives like enzymes to optimise the feed formulation cost and the animal performances.
Thirdly, we have experience in Europe since 2006 to formulate feeds without antibiotic growth promoters, and in this respect, a clear insight in the use of new feed specialities like MCT, essential oils, organic and inorganic acids.
Since Aveve is the largest feed producer in Belgium, we have the possibility to validate and use our feed specialities in our own commercial feeds. In this way, Aveve Biochem can offer the clients feed specialities that are validated in practice.
Following the EU ban on AGPs, what do you believe will be the next livestock industry trend?
 I see a multi factorial approach with regards to the feed and animal production industry. Feed is an important factor but the overall animal production concerning disease prevention, hygiene on the farms and good practices also has to be optimised.
Speciality additives are very important of course, and are an important step in a good control of the production efficacy.
Do you expect more Asian countries from Asia to ban AGPs?
The main concern is the theory of cross resistance to human antibiotics.Europe uses the principle of precaution, meaning that we want to be prudent with feed AGPs in this respect, even if there is still a debate going on about the cross resistance issues.
We already have the partial ban in Korea and we see a growing awareness in many countries including the US where the debate is going on. We can expect at least a partial ban in many countries over the near future.
Do you see high feed prices as a challenge or opportunity? How does they  impact Aveve Biochem?
High feed prices are negative for the profitability of the feed industry and the animal production sector. On the other hand, too low raw material prices are not good for the crop production sector. In our industry, we look for equilibrated situations. The question will be if this will be possible, as the demand for raw materials is growing relatively fast along with the alternative use of feed raw materials in
energy production. Of course, other non physical, financial speculations on raw materials are important factors in the agflation.
For speciality additives like high quality enzyme concepts, there are also opportunities. They allow the possibility to lower the total cost of the feed formulation. Although this kind of powerful enzymes can besomewhat more expensive, they allow the use of more by-products, to use higher levels of specific cereals and to increase nutrient and energy utilisation by the animals, without loss of the animal performances.
The pricing strategy of enzymes is mainly governed by the enzyme composition, quality and dosage needed for efficacy. But of course, increased cost of raw materials used for enzyme fermentation can have an influence on the margins of the enzyme product as such. 
What are your expectations for Asia's feed enzyme market in 2011 and 2012?
The Asian feed enzyme market is still a growing market, simply because the feed industry is still growing fast with the industrialisation of this sector and the growing demand for food products.
On the other hand, the validation and application of enzymes in more and more animal types, and animals of older age also leads to increased market potential. 
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