BIOMIN: From early experimenter to industry leader
"We are not just a binder company," quips Hannes Binder, global managing director of BIOMIN.
More than 30 years ago, in a rented warehouse in the small town of Pottenbrunn in Austria, BIOMIN was born. In 1985, the company bought Interpremix, a small premix factory, as its first production facility. The acquired firm also made a product called Antitox Plus, the first product available that 'binds' mycotoxins through a process known as adsorption. The product achieved success in the Taiwanese market; BIOMIN's distributor and customers in Taiwan reported excellent results. However, when the product was placed in the European market, it did not work out, as the mycotoxins present in Europe were different from those in Taiwan, as Binder tells FEED Business Worldwide in an interview. This was the starting point of better understanding the various classes of mycotoxins, and how to deal with them.
Today, BIOMIN is perceived by the industry as a leading company in mycotoxin risk management. It holds three registrations in the European Union, with numerous peer-reviewed papers, scientific publications and literature used to provide training and education to the industry.
From its humble beginnings, BIOMIN has since developed to become a global leader in the field of animal health and nutrition.
FBW: Please tell us more about BIOMIN's beginnings in mycotoxin research.
When Antitox Plus was placed in the European market, it did not work out, as the mycotoxins present in Europe were different from those in Taiwan. This was the starting point of better understanding the various classes of mycotoxins. We signed a research agreement with the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, and Dr. Josef Leibetseder to improve the efficacy of Antitox Plus for a wider range of mycotoxins.
BIOMIN then entered into another partnership with IFA Tulln and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), to extend this research further. As a result, Biomin® BBSH 797, a microorganism that biotransforms trichothecenes (a family of mycotoxins) into harmless metabolites was born and patented. The second generation of the mycotoxin deactivation product was launched under the brand name Mycofix®.
Mycotoxin management is the biggest product group for BIOMIN. Among its other product groups, do you see mycotoxin management products having the greatest growth potential?
Our mycotoxin risk management products have a great growth potential. Other products in our gut performance portfolio including Digestarom®, PoultryStar®, AquaStar® and Biotronic® have significant growth potential as well, due to the various challenges faced by the industry such as poor nutrient digestibility, inflammatory gut conditions, immunosuppression, antibiotic growth promoter replacement, food safety concerns, salmonella control, dysbiosis (wet litter), coccidiosis, necrotic enteritis and even lameness. As a whole, all BIOMIN products show great growth potential as they provide the very solutions needed to tackle these challenges that producers currently face.
How has the global feed industry's attitude towards mycotoxin management products changed in the past decade?
The global feed industry now has a much better understanding of mycotoxins. In the early days, people were educated on aflatoxins and the risks this group of mycotoxins brought about. Nowadays, the understanding of mycotoxins has grown to other groups including ochratoxins (OTA), fumonisins (FUM), deoxynivalenol (DON) and zearalenone (ZEN). From a product category that did not existed in the European Union (EU), mycotoxin deactivators have now earned a place in the EU feed additive product category registration. The industry as a whole has also moved to testing for mycotoxins in raw materials and finished feed, which was not done in the past. This has opened doors to more research being done on mycotoxin risk management.
Today, multiple-mycotoxin contamination is one of the biggest concerns of our customers. The synergistic effect of multiple-mycotoxin contamination and presence of masked mycotoxins makes contamination levels unpredictable.
For example, mycotoxins can cause immunosuppression in animals, which leads to increased susceptibility to diseases, thus greatly affecting productivity and profits.
BIOMIN therefore ensures a constant supply of our products to our customers, as consistent usage of quality products from BIOMIN will help to address such concerns, in the midst of unpredictable levels of mycotoxin contamination.
BIOMIN offers a broad spectrum approach to mycotoxin risk management. For example, with the use of Mycofix® Plus, our most comprehensive mycotoxin risk management product, customers can be sure that they are fully protected.
Our Spectrum 380® program offers an integrated solution by providing analyses on the occurrences of various groups of mycotoxins based on the global mycotoxin survey results that BIOMIN conducts every year, and then providing solutions that address the full spectrum of mycotoxins that we know.
More generally speaking, for our feed mill customers, the safety and quality of their feed is their top priority, as these in turn help them to gain more of their own loyal customers. Producers report an excellent return on investment when BIOMIN products are included in the feed they purchase. In addition to Mycofix®, the use of gut performance functional feed additives including phytogenics, probiotics, and organic acids improve performance of the animals and help the producer to increase their profit margins.
Why does BIOMIN choose to provide a broad spectrum mycotoxin management solution, as opposed to a solution which is specific to individual mycotoxins?
In fact, BIOMIN offers both. On one hand, we offer our solution as insurance for consistent quality, and on the other hand, we also offer solutions specific to certain groups of mycotoxins.
As an example, we have the bentonite that is authorised in the EU targeting aflatoxins, and then we have FUMzyme® that specifically targets fumonisins. Mycofix® Focus then combines the adsorption strategy of bentonites with the biotransformation strategy (with the inclusion of FUMzyme®) to bind aflatoxins and biodegrade fumonisins into harmless metabolites respectively.
So far, BIOMIN is the only company that can offer tailor-made products and solutions for specific groups of mycotoxins. More often than not, as we see from the results of our global mycotoxin survey, there is more than one mycotoxin present in raw materials and feed. As a result, we either need a broad spectrum mycotoxin risk management solution or specific strategies to combat the presence of multiple mycotoxins.
With many mycotoxin management products in the market, how does BIOMIN differentiate yourself from your competitors?
In 2013, BIOMIN became the first company to receive the European Commission authorisation for feed additives with mycotoxin-counteracting properties to not only adsorb but also degrade mycotoxins. The authorisations were for the deoxynivalenol-biotransforming product Biomin® BBSH 797 and the aflatoxin-binding bentonite Mycofix® Secure. In addition, in 2014, FUMzyme®, part of the well-established Mycofix® product line of BIOMIN, became the first-ever purified enzyme to be authorised by the EU and proven to biotransform fumonisins into non-toxic metabolites.
Mycofix® 5.0, the latest offering from BIOMIN, is an all-in-one feed additive that uses a three-pronged approach, with three distinct modes of action - adsorption, biotransformation, and bioprotection - to deliver absolute protection against mycotoxins.
Again, our Spectrum 380® program is an all-encompassing tool, allowing for simultaneous detection of multiple mycotoxins (more than 380) in a wide variety of feed and agricultural commodities. It is more sensitive, suitable for various feed matrices, and especially suited for detection of masked and/or emerging mycotoxins.
The program is supported by our extensive global mycotoxin survey. The annual BIOMIN global mycotoxin survey is internationally-recognised, and is also commonly referenced by other organisations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.
How do you see your mycotoxin management product portfolio change in the next five years to meet customers' expectations?
To meet the expectations of our customers, we will unveil more purified enzymes in the future. 2015 is an important year for BIOMIN with the launch of Mycofix® 5.0, which has FUMzyme® included as one of its ingredients. With more purified enzymes, we can offer solutions that help our customers target specific groups of mycotoxins in a cost-efficient manner.
Please tell us more about your business in China.
Our strategy in China is to further increase our presence in the market, because we want to be closer to all our customers. China is a big market, with different needs across the vast country.
The awareness of mycotoxins, as with most other parts of the world, is still increasing, and what we see from the Chinese government is that there is now more focus on safety and quality. This perfectly fits the BIOMIN solutions portfolio, as BIOMIN is driven by the application of state-of-the-art and proprietary technology to deliver natural, sustainable and profitable solutions to the livestock industry. For example, with recent food safety concerns and the dioxin contamination issues, China's focus on food safety has increased. BIOMIN solutions can help combat such issues, be it mycotoxin contamination or pathogen contamination.
In Wuxi, China, we are finalising the construction of our new production plant in order to cope with the growing demand from the Chinese market, and to ensure a consistent supply of products for our customers. Upon completion, the plant in Wuxi will be our fourth plant in Asia, to secure the future growth in the big market of China.