Issues such as accelerating feed demand against a backdrop of dwindling supplies have triggered record increases in feed grain prices. As these have been reverberating through the feed and livestock sectors for the past few years, industry stakeholders are keen on pursuing formulas that reduce production costs without compromising feed grain quality. But answers to this resounding dilemma may not come from an all-in-one solution kit.
Kemin, a market leader in feed stability and feed preservation solutions, sums up its quest for timely answers with its "inspired molecular solutions." Dr. Leong Kah Heng, the company's senior marketing manager for Asia Pacific, explains that a fixed formulation for varying needs may not be the right approach, as every raw material and livestock line reacts differently and has unique needs. "For all the products that we market, we try to understand our product down to the molecular level. A specific enzyme will address specific raw material need for digestibility, making our product line truly target-specific."
"In Kemin, we believe in localization - using locally available raw materials and developing products in accordance to local needs. We listen to our markets, we take feedbacks seriously and try to address the needs of our farmers and customers. Diet formulation varies in every country and available raw materials also vary a lot," Leong says.
Cassava for one, is popular in Asia, may not be known or appreciated in western feed markets. "For us, we identify it as a key raw material in the future; so we do something to fully utilize it. We make an enzyme just fit for cassava, which may vary tremendously from the enzyme we prepared for corn," Leong says. Kemzyme TOP Dry is multi-enzyme blend formulated to enhance the nutritive value of cassava. It increases starch digestibility and reduces mean residence of starch along the animal's digestive tract.
The company has an extensive enzyme activities database from which it selects appropriate enzymes to use in a specific formulation based on required activity, stability, compatibility and cost.
"This database includes all current enzyme supplies in the world. We studied their major and minor activities. If you are not careful, one enzyme could neutralize the activity of another enzyme. The stringent selection process ensures that enzymes do not have an antagonizing effect on each other," Leong points out.
Kemin introduced its multi-enzyme formulations in 1985, the first in Asia. Through advanced selection and formulation technologies, supported by 20 years of experience, Kemin was able to develop multi-enzyme formulas fit for the Asian market.
To check on the efficacy of its products, Kemin conducts in-vitro tests which allow the company to obtain results within one week. Kemin Agrifoods Asia also boasts of a sophisticated quality management system with strong adherence to GMP principles.
Unshakeable presence in Asia
Strategically located in Singapore, Kemin Agrifoods Asia division coordinates the company's research, development and manufacturing of livestock feed ingredients and agricultural products throughout Asia-Pacific. Products include mould inhibitors, carotenoids, acidifiers, enzymes antioxidants, salmonella inhibitors, absorption enhancers, toxin binders and probiotics.
With an added 12,000-square-foot innovation center which just opened in 2005, "Kemin Agrifoods Asia is right at the forefront, continually developing products and programs designed to meet the needs of the customers in the Asian market," says John Springate, CEO and president.
The division's geographic proximity to its Asian clients enables it to closely monitor evolving feed markets in neighbouring Asian countries. Consequently, when it saw that countries like China and India were on the cusp of a feed and livestock industry boom, it right away decided to open regional centers there.
Its convenient positioning in the region also eases the costs of logistics, one of the reasons why Kemin stays in top form amid tight competition.
Aside from launching new products backed with intensive research, Kemin maintains an unwavering focus on its core business - the Feed Stability line. "We see a need for natural antioxidants in the markets since some concerns have been raised on Ethoxyquin-based [EQ] antioxidants in the feed industry. This shift from EQ to natural antioxidants actually started in pet foods. Later, interest was seen in the livestock production for natural antioxidants."
Yet one of the issues of natural antioxidants, which will use natural extracts such as those from Rosemary and Tocopherols plants, is their challenging cost. The company is currently working to achieve a natural antioxidant that is both technically effective and cost efficient.
Recently, Kemin has also shown strong interest in developing animal health products. Leong states that several are in the pipeline and slated to be launched soon. They will address animal health and human safety issues arising from avian flu and several other recurrent livestock disease epidemics. These include Postweaning Multisystematic Wasting Syndrome (PMWS), Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) and foot and mouth disease.
Leong adds that Kemin's developing interest in animal health solutions is not an animal pharmaceutical venture. "Animal pharmaceutical is more about antibiotics, vaccination and biological control. What we look forward to is through our nutricine, we can offer nutrient past medicine. Right now, we are feeding animals, with specific feed additives to prevent oxidation and to improve production efficiency. Yet, we want to enhance this. We think nutricine can do more; it can feed the animal not just for nutrients but also for overall health, which means it could address disease problems. This will also provide alternatives to current [animal health] solutions, which are mainly reliant on antibiotics." He adds that even though antibiotics have been around for a long time, "we don't think it is the answer for the future as well. We push for alternative solutions."
For the agribusiness industry, Leong points out that the only limiting factor is per capita meat consumption. If you are in the US, consumption is so high already that you can't expect substantial growth.
On the other hand, Asia, with the exception of Singapore, still has very low per capita meat consumption. With the region's incomes and appetites rising rapidly, it is thus ripe with opportunities for growth. "As long as human consumption and population is increasing, the agrifood industry will always be moving forward. Of course if it reaches a saturation point, feed milling activity will slow down, feed meal production will mature, then we will face new challenges, but I don't see this in the near future," Leong says.
The winning solution
Thanks to its forward looking strategies, Kemin has doubled its total turnover in just six years time. These positive returns come from a steady commitment to listen to consumer needs and constantly solicit for feedback from both internal and external customers.
The feed and livestock solutions this company creates are both reactive and proactive, Leong says. It is reactive to consumers sourcing for effective solutions and proactive in that it constantly seeks better ways of doing things that go beyond short-term feed market requirements.
The company also places high importance to its after-sales service so that it can not only can it assist its clients, but also collect samples and results from the end-users, thereby building its client and knowledge databases over the years.