October 8, 2018


Correcting market misconceptions and presenting opportunities for the protein economy: BIOMIN WNF


With "Scientific Challenges and Opportunities in the Protein Economy" being the theme of the 8th BIOMIN World Nutrition Forum (WNF) held in Cape Town, South Africa October 3-5, a variety of subject matter experts showed how the scientific method could help the animal protein industry correct market misconceptions and present new business opportunities.

People new to the African market often see it as one large continent with emerging potential, but it is clear that they don't understand what Africa is about, according to Albert van Rensburg, regional director of BIOMIN Africa. "Africa is really a continent of contrasts," van Rensburg stressed at a press conference.

Indeed, he went on to show how market projections for the poultry, swine, beef, milk and egg sectors each vary greatly amongst sub-regions of North, South, East, West and Central Africa, with data provided by the Livestock Data Innovation in Africa Project, a joint initiative involving the World Bank and FAO among others.

Taking on a global perspective at the Forum proper, Peer Ederer, founder of Africa Enablers, painted four scenarios based on the relationship between innovation and land utilisation. Importantly, he showed how some claims made by consumer groups are not true, and could even be "dangerously wrong".

For example, a scenario of "deliberate impoverishment", as called for by some consumer groups, aims to reduce the need for natural resources by radically curtailing the availability of red meat to the global consumer. However, 80% of the additional food required by 2050 will be needed in Africa and South Asia, which are today already net importers of food. In this scenario, by 2050, even more of the agricultural production would be occurring in South and North America, while it is needed in Africa and South Asia. It would then be a challenge for Africa and South Asia to afford the financial means to import food on such a large scale.

Another scenario, "radical technology deployment", reflects the recent focus on agtech by certain sectors of the agriculture industry. However, there are highly complex socio-economic hurdles for technology to overcome for the yield gaps to be closed.

Chris de Lavigne of Deloitte Singapore offered some insight into some of these socio-economic challenges relating to technology deployment. He said that when a technology is deployed at the front end, there needs to be a backend system in place, such as to mine the data collected at the front end. This implies that technology cannot be deployed in silos, and all stakeholders along the agriculture value chain should communicate well with one another.

Despite the scientific challenges for the protein economy, perhaps one key takeaway message from the 8th WNF, as presented by Jan Vanbrabant during his closing remarks, who is chairman and CEO of the ERBER Group (which includes BIOMIN), is that "the future is for the innovators". He had earlier shared how BIOMIN has leveraged on the rapid advancements in sequencing technologies ('omics' technologies) which were once commercially unviable, to develop new products which help customers increase their margins.

With the ongoing industry emphasis on the development of antibiotic alternatives, 'omics' technologies have enabled BIOMIN researchers to study the factors leading to antibiotic resistance, and also the mode of action of antibiotics. These topics were presented in-depth under the theme of "Gut Health and Performance", a recurring theme at BIOMIN's World Nutrition Forum.

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