September 18, 2012
Executive Talk: Easy Bio - Sustainable technological development rooted in strong fundamentals
An eFeedLink Exclusive
Offering antibiotic free livestock performance decades before it became fashionable, Easy Bio's US$2 billion annual turnover provides sustainable solutions across all livestock lines.
by Geraldine EE
Founded in 1988, Easy Bio Inc. was providing sustainable alternatives to antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) nearly two decades before ecological sustainability became an agribusiness imperative. Today, with an annual turnover of over US$2 billion, its enduring commitment to the same fundamentals is duly rewarded.
As the first company to launch organic acids and phytase in the Korean feed industry, Easy Bio definitely has long been the technological leader of South Korea's animal feed additive market.
But rather than resting on its past successes, Easy Bio continues to develop new generations of sustainable animal performance boosting feed additives, both in South Korea itself, and increasingly, around the world. All this is done in in order to maximise profits of livestock farms and feed mills, improve animal health and minimise environmental impact. Over this time, Easy Bio developed the know-how to replace AGPs through a variety of solutions.
In fact, the core values of the company - 'Think new', 'Keep challenged' and 'Share value' aptly sums up its modus operandi. "For the benefit of our customers, we will take up the challenge and when solutions are found, we share the benefits and success with our customers through practical products, thus helping them to stay sustainable in the industry," elaborates Dr Stevenson Hwang, director of Easy Bio's new business development division.
In 1999, just after 10 years of its founding, Easy Bio became the country's first biotech company to be listed on the Korean stock exchange (KOSDAQ). Today, Easy Bio's four main businesses including biotechnology, feed mills, farms and integrators/livestock packing centres.
These days, the rising cost of feed raw materials and food safety are two of the biggest concerns of livestock producers. From the perspective of Easy Bio, however, these challenges offer opportunities for the company to create solutions for these market needs. The company answered the call by creating products that minimise feed resource use and render reliance on AGPs unnecessary.
Easy Bio's answer to the long term, secular uptrend in feed prices is to improve feed conversion efficiency. Towards this end, its carbohydrase, Endo-Power Beta, is able to break down non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs) in feed, thereby accelerating gut absorption, so that a larger proportion of feed nutrients are digested.
Similarly, Lipidol accelerates the absorption of nutrients and energy by cell membranes. By putting both these supplements into their feed, producers can save on feed costs by getting the same livestock growth from reduced energy and nutrient levels.
While feed prices are the main challenge with regards to livestock costs, the use of AGPs in animal feed takes centre stage with regards to consumer food safety concerns. All over the world, a rising proportion of consumers are demanding safe meat from healthy animals which are not fed antibiotics.
At the same time, Fermkito, a combination of fermented chitosan, chitosan oligosaccharides and fermented d-aminolevulinic acids was developed to enhance livestock immunity and make their AGP-free raising economically sustainable in the upcoming post-AGP era.
To keep up with the livestock supplement sector's rapid pace of innovation, Easy Bio spends 5% to 7% of its annual revenue on R&D. Boasting a research team of more than 40 members that develop and evaluate sustainable livestock supplements, the company also enters institutional and commercial partnerships to develop new products.
With the establishment of Bio-Resource Institute in 1995, Easy Bio had the opportunity to develop its own product, especially in the area of microbial fermentation. Microbial fermentation is an important area of its technology, especially the qualified yeast culture production system through 2-step fermentation of liquid and solid fermentation. Products developed include fermented chitosan and chitosan oligosaccharides
At the same time, technology to develop animal models for producing value-added proteins and biomedical products are introduced. Fermented d-aminolevulinic acid, which can be applied to enhance immunity, is developed based on one of its key technologies
To expand on its technological capability, joint venture companies were formed to accelerate Easy Bio's development of enzyme and absorption-based products.
Based on Easy Bio's fermentation technology and GNC Bioferm's enzymatic technology, Esys Bioferm, a joint venture company, was established in Canada in 1999. The resulting collaboration developed Endo-Power Beta, an enzyme which breaks down the non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs) commonly found corn and soy based feed diets.
While common feed enzymes mainly target the NSPs found in wheat and barley, Endo-Power Beta raises livestock performance for customers using corn (including DDGs) and soymeal based feeds. The product was registered as the first NSP enzyme in EU and Easy Bio now supplies the product to the United States, South America, Asia and Middle East.
Similarly, the year 2000 saw Easy Bio enter a joint venture with the Seoul National University to establish Avicore, went on to develop value-added proteins from poultry.
Avicore established an embryonic germ cell line --the first in the world-- including the germ line chimera by using embryonic germ cell of poultry. That same year, a joint venture company with South Korea's Dankuk University was formed.
Called Dan Biotech, Easy Bio's joint venture with Dankuk University developed the technical means to mass produce immunoglobulin G from egg yolks. As Immunoglobulin G controls both pathogenic bacteria and viruses such as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) and Rotavirus, Easy Bio's ability to economically produce this substance was a major step forward in animal disease treatment and prevention.
In 2011, bio-venture company Pathway Intermediates International was established as a joint-venture with the British firm Pathway Intermediates. This new collaboration will provide solutions which boost the proportion of nutrients and energy absorbed from feed.
Besides investing in bio-venture companies in the animal industry, Easy Bio also invests in industries such as food and pharmaceutical.
"The structure of this investment is to maximise synergy between the animal industry and biotechnology on animal performance. This structure allows us to develop valuable products for the market and increase our competitiveness in the animal industry by tapping on the technologies in related industries," says Dr Hwang.
Initially founded as a feed additive supplier and now a fully integrated biotechnology-based company, Easy Bio's development was not undertaken to merely increase the company's size, but to achieve a competitive business model in the industry. "We believe it's more important for us to enrich our substance, and not only to increase our size," says Dr Hwang.
Spurring the growth of Easy Bio are its key products, which include Endo-Power Beta, Lipidol, Fermkito, BioPlus YC, and d-aminolevulinic acids. With annual growth rates of 30% to 100%, the success of these products attests to the fact Easy Bio is on the right track in answering customers' needs.
Currently, Easy Bio sees strong sales for its poultry products, especially in South America and Middle East. It is promoting itself aggressively to poultry sector stakeholders and expects significant growth in its poultry sector client base within a year.
"The solutions which Easy Bio provides are very attractive to the poultry industry since the cost issue in the poultry sector is more critical compared to that of swine," says Dr Hwang.
Even as the swine industry is developing, especially in the growing Asian economies, growth in Easy Bio's poultry and aquaculture businesses all over the world continue to outpace the swine business.
Despite poultry's brighter long-term prospects, in 2004, Easy Bio undertook the establishment of a vertically-integrated business model for its swine business. "The challenge was how we could establish a swine breed which is optimal to the Korean market with respect to climate, disease situation and consumers' preference for meat quality," explained Dr Hwang.
Easy Bio evaluated various species, and finally decided to establish a breed line with Hypor. The vertical integration was completed in 2006 and today, Easy Bio has expanded its South Korean business by supplying pigs to other farms out of its farm. Its swine production business boasts 300,000 marketed pigs annually. Currently, Easy Bio also manages broiler and duck production, with yearly marketed birds totalling 110 million and 1 million respectively.
"We see this as one of the solutions for Korean farmers to increase their competitiveness in farm management," says Dr Hwang.
The path ahead
"Feed additives companies need to meet the demands of large customers by providing more valuable products and technical service at more competitive price," says Dr Hwang.
With rapid consolidation, more companies may try to acquire technology from their competitors. From another perspective, these mergers and acquisitions could point to attempts by companies to acquire new technologies through takeovers. With its own technology and the capability to develop and synthesise different biotechnology areas, Easy Bio will continue to play a significant role in the global market.
Firmly rooted to providing solutions for cost-saving and improving animal performance without AGPs, Easy Bio's research will continue to develop products that meet these challenges in more effective ways. With livestock farmers continuing to demand feed cost-savings and consumers demanding animal products without AGPs, there is no end in sight for Easy Bio's challenges and growth opportunities.