September 3, 2015
Innovad: Wide-spectrum protection, made simple
From coping with the complex interactions of toxins with other stress factors, to supporting the animal's own defence mechanism along with trapping, detoxifying toxins, Innovad's Escent® and Magnet® product lines do them all.
by Ngai Meng CHAN
"How can we measure the benefits of mycotoxin risk control? This is a question our customers often ask us," says Ben Letor, director at Belgium-based Innovad. "Their biggest concern is how they can measure the effectiveness of a product in order to mitigate their mycotoxin risks. They find that it is very hard to evaluate such risks, yet at the same time need to take preventive steps against such potential risks. A bit of a catch-22 situation for them."
Their situation is not helped by the very abundant offer of toxin control products (from binders to detoxifiers) to the feed industry, according to Letor. "The industry is in desperate need to be able to measure -- using well identified bio-markers -- the effects of such products on animal performance and health."
"There is a lot of noise, a lot of confusion, a lot of opportunistic approaches, and many me-too type products in the market that are very poorly researched. In vitro-only data are often presented, which does not properly address the complex interactions between gut health and other stress factors (bacterial, environmental, farm or herd specific)," Letor adds.
He therefore believes that the way out of the clutter lies in properly identifying the mycotoxin risks, such as by segregating contaminated feedstuffs and redirecting their use to less susceptible animals, selecting the right application and dose of an effective product, and most importantly, understanding the need to support the animal's own defence and detoxification system.
Since Innovad was founded in 2010, risk identification has been a key aspect of the company's two-year extensive research programme to validate its Escent® product. The product was studied under an array of situations looking at different geographies, animal species, natural and artificial contaminations, and low and high risk situations.
More recently in 2013, Innovad launched a mycotoxin risk assessment service provided by independent laboratories using HPLC and later on LC-MS/MS techniques to measure the extent of mycotoxin contamination in feedstuffs. The company contracts two different independent laboratories which it sends samples to for analyses following a strict protocol. Within five working days, a risk analysis report and suggested actions from Innovad's technical services team are provided to the customer through Innovad or its distributors.
Letor further reveals that they are working on developing a new analytical method in partnership with a university, starting from this year, based on toxicokinetic parameters measuring the amount of toxic components absorbed by the animal. This will involve analysing levels of biomarkers and metabolites in the excreta (urine, faeces) and in the blood.
Analytical tools have not only become more affordable, quicker and more accurate, but also have greater ability to go deeper into the identification process, notes Letor. "The industry has realised that a multitude of toxin groups, and their various forms (masked, conjugated) extend the mycotoxin risks, creating the need for a wide spectrum approach rather than targeting specific groups of toxins," he points out.
"As we are also not always sure what we are dealing with precisely, for example we may not know how additional stress on farm would impact the potential toxic load in the feedstuff, we have to develop nutritional strategies that would both support the animal's ability to withstand such stress, as well as reduce the toxicity of toxins. Being toxin-specific might be too restrictive and we might miss the target. This would defeat our purpose and result in unnecessary costs for the feed miller," Letor adds.
That said, sometimes when the challenges are well-identified with reliable historical trends and a good database pinpointing polar toxins, Innovad's Magnet® will suffice and be recommended, according to Letor. Magnet® is additionally an anti-caking agent and pelleting aid for feed. Studies have shown that it adsorbs polar toxins and enhances flowability of feed ingredients.
When challenges are more unclear, with combined stress factors and modified toxin metabolites along with non-polar toxins, Escent®'s multifunctional mode of action would be promoted. In particular, Escent® P and Escent® L have been specifically designed for poultry use, with the latter ideal in situations in which stressed birds reduce their feed intake (but continue drinking), making feed treatment a less practical option.
In China, Escent® S is mainly used for the dairy sector. Letor shares his outlook for the sector: "We see a growing demand for technology helping in mitigating the risk of toxins and reducing the elevated levels of somatic cell counts in some dairies. Local trials and in vivo tests have been carried out highlighting the benefits of our approach in this fast-growing milk industry. At this initial stage, we are working through specialised connected distributors but we anticipate to ground a company with local manufacturing capabilities in 2016."
Over 50% of Innovad's revenues come from its Escent® and Magnet® product lines. The company's ambition is to continue to strongly grow its mycotoxin risk control business segment, and it will allocate extra research funds and technical support to double the business over the next three years as outlined in its long-term strategic plan.
Unlike popular belief, as the company had experienced in the recent past, it is no longer regions like Latin America or Asia that are mostly impacted by the risk of toxin contamination because of their hot and humid climates, notes Letor.
He explains: "The climate is changing, becoming less predictable. Grain seeds and hybrids are evolving; new by-products are being used. These factors all contribute to increasing the possibility for mycotoxins to be found in places that were usually not identified as being risky in the past.
For example, aflatoxin-contaminated grain supplies in Central Eastern Europe last summer posed a challenge to milk producers in Europe who had hardly been confronted with that kind of toxin risk. And this year we have seen more Fusarium-toxin risks in the European Union.
In comparison, we note that the US dairy industry recognised the risks related to the presence of polar and non-polar toxins many years ago, and they have been taking preventive action all year round, whereas in Europe we have not witnessed such a level of awareness yet. In fact, it is only until very recently that some producers have started considering looking at using binders.
We can then say that no region is exempt of risks, that historical trends are of limited value and that we see a need to constantly monitor this issue in all parts of the world."
For organic products, the US market is also fast catching up with its European counterpart, the traditional stronghold.
"We are seeing a growing demand for certified organic additives to mitigate such risk mainly in Europe but now also in the US. We have developed an Escent formula that has been approved for use in certified organic production. Our experience tells us that industry players are reluctant to store many different additives to address similar issues and prefer to use just one certified organic product, provided the cost is not prohibitive," reveals Letor.
Overall, in the next five years, Innovad aims to continue to bring innovation in mycotoxin identification to the industry, and raise its understanding of the risks of mycotoxin exposure. It therefore expects its product portfolio to remain very dynamic, seeing new upgraded versions and tools.