September 30, 2015
Vland Biotech Group: Biotechnology, springboard for growth

With its origins in Shandong Liuhe Agri-Farm Biotechnology Co., Ltd. which was set up in 2001 for the production of probiotics and enzymes, Vland Biotech has since established 14 companies specialising in four main product categories: enzymes, probiotics, vaccines and animal health products. The biotech springboard of the Group's businesses continues to strengthen as strategic shareholdings are acquired and synergistic partnerships are embarked on.

by Ngai Meng CHAN



Animal nutritionists and veterinarians have traditionally worked separately towards the common goal of achieving better animal health. With businesses in both animal nutrition and animal health, Vland Biotech is one of the few companies which are helping to bridge this gap.


Speaking to FEED Business Worldwide at Livestock Asia 2015, held September in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dr. Xiangdong Ma, Director of Enzyme/Probiotics Division at Vland Biotech Group, commented, "The line between animal health and animal nutrition is blurring."


"For example, we use animal nutrition technology to improve feed digestibility, animal gut health, and immunity, thus reducing occurrence of disease. With improved animal health, our vaccines and pharmaceuticals work more efficiently," Dr. Ma explained.


Meeting the rising demand for NGPs


The changing attitude towards antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs), particularly in the European Union and the United States, is also helping the company's probiotic products gain acceptance among feed millers and farmers.


According to Dr. Ma, when probiotics were first introduced to the feed and livestock industry, people were sceptical about their efficacy as they were unclear about their mechanisms of action. In contrast, the effectiveness of AGPs in promoting growth had long been seen across the world. So feed millers and farmers alike preferred to use AGPs, rather than natural growth promoters (NGPs) such as probiotics.


"However, especially in recent years, the EU and US have changed their attitudes towards AGPs, by banning or limiting the use of AGPs in feed, and emphasising the importance of using NGPs instead of AGPs. New technologies have been developed and the use of herbal extract, acidifiers, enzymes and probiotics have gained wide acceptance as AGP replacers," Dr. Ma pointed out.


To meet the rising demand for NGPs, the Group acquired an aqua premix company in 2011, which also marked its entry into the aquaculture sector. The very next year Vland-tech Biotechnology Co., Ltd. was established, mainly for the R&D, production, and marketing of probiotics for aquaculture.


More recently in 2013, KDN Biotech Group and KDN Pharma Group (both entities were formed in 2004 as part of KDN Industry Group) merged to form today's Vland Biotech Group. Other important developments in the same year included: the start of production for the Group's plant in Shandong, which produce Bacillus, Lactobacillus, and Clostridium Butyrate bacteria strains for its NGP products; the company's first joint venture in Indiana, US for the R&D of enzymes and probiotics.


Educating the industry


While NGP products have been steadily gaining acceptance in recent years, customers are still largely concerned about their cost and effectiveness during application, according to Dr. Ma.


"In this regard, Vland Biotech has, as examples, developed a more efficacious Lactobacillus with lower cost, and a Clostridium Butyrate with better thermostability and lower cost," he highlighted. "For Lactobacillus, we have also cooperated with a German company to develop an advanced coating technology to improve the thermostability of the strain."


More generally speaking, as Dr. Ma added, the company has a rigorous and comprehensive set of technology systems in place to select strains with best pathogen inhibition. "To give you an idea of our strict selection criteria, for every 100 strains tested, maybe only about one or two functional strains are eventually selected."


On the field, the company additionally conducts trial tests to prove improvement in the animal's immunity, and determine the best supplement dosage.


As the feed industry makes use of various grain types and local by-products available in different world regions and individual countries, Vland Biotech will collect different feed raw materials found in local feed formulations, make chyme (partially digested food) as culture medium, and select the strain that works best in the culture medium (fast proliferation, high efficacy) using a biomimic system. The company will then compare their developed product against those of their competitors.


And along the production line, a strict GMP system is in place to ensure a high level of quality is maintained. The company also continually conducts R&D in fermentation technology to reduce cost.


To get its customers more involved in the product development process, Vland Biotech conducts joint research projects with its customers, and develops products together with its customers based on market needs. For instance, the Group visited Malaysia in April earlier this year to update its product technical information and learn more about its market there.


In addition, with the plethora of probiotic products available in the market, Vland Biotech believes there is a need to organise seminars several times a year to educate the feed milling industry about assessing product efficacy. For example, at such seminars, participants are guided on how to check the efficacy of probiotics by monitoring diarrhoea rate, and how to evaluate digestive system performance.


As for industry stakeholders which hold sustainability issues and animal welfare in high regard, they will be also be assured to know, as an example, that NGPs such as probiotics can inhibit Coliform bacteria proliferation and the resulting degradation of protein, Dr. Ma pointed out. Ammonia concentration in the gut is thus reduced, relieving the animal of stress, and ensuring animal welfare and a cleaner manure.

Future developments


For its probiotic product range, Dr. Ma reveals that the company will develop probiotics with more functions and applications, faster proliferation capability, better in modulating animal gut health, while at lower cost.


"Within the next five years, there will be more Lactobacillus products, as different Lactobacillus strains have different effects on animals," he volunteers.


Vland Biotech will also develop probiotics for the treatment of animal manure and wastewater.


Leveraging its biotechnology edge, Dr. Ma further revealed that the company will combine enzyme and probiotic technologies to develop more products and solutions to replace AGPs.


"We expect good growth in mainland China, Russia, Brazil and the US. The company will focus and invest more in our markets in Southeast Asia and South America," he predicted.


One thing is for sure - Vland Biotech's strength in biotechnology will continue to be the springboard for its businesses in the NGP sector.

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