18 October 2021 – Europe’s BSE outbreak of the 1990s was instrumental in the two-decade long ban of processed animal proteins (PAPs) in feed in the EU. But with their recent reauthorisation for poultry and swine diets, their inclusion is expected to become more commonplace. While some are questioning the biosafety of these ingredients, with African Swine Fever (ASF) still on their minds, others are welcoming their reintroduction as a step towards creating a more sustainable circular economy on the continent.
At the intersection of these two concepts – sustainability and biosafety – lies Spain’s Bioiberica. The company’s animal nutrition division was born over 22 years ago from an idea to upcycle the porcine intestinal mucosa waste it was generating in the production of Heparin API – an anticoagulant medication – using hydrolysis into a high-quality protein source for animals. However, the resultant product soon fell victim to the PAPs ban. This forced the company to put in place a biosecurity scheme, which reassured authorities and allowed it to quickly restart its hydrolysed protein sales to all animal species.
Today, this long history of ensuring biosafety and operating sustainably is serving Bioiberica well as it moves to further solidify its place in animal nutrition as an environmentally conscious provider of safe, animal-derived protein products. In this Industry Perspectives, company Chief Executive Luis Solera talks Feedinfo through how Bioiberica is responding to ASF concerns, the importance of contributing to the circular bioeconomy, driving business through research, and what it has planned for the future.
[Feedinfo] Sustainability has become a major focus for virtually all actors in the animal nutrition industry, resulting in a steady flow of innovations and new feed ingredients promising livestock producers more environmentally responsible ways of feeding their animals. How is Bioiberica approaching things differently?
[Luis Solera] Bioiberica has been committed to the sustainability of the food chain since the establishment of the company back in 1975. This led to an operational mindset which is driven by our ambition to be a zero-waste company. This resulted in production processes designed to minimise the consumption of water, energy, and auxiliary raw materials, and, therefore, our impact on the environment.
For example, we are already only using power and gas from renewable sources, and in the long run, will be investing in generating as much of our own electricity as possible through solar panels in our production plants. Plus, we recently measured our sustainability management system and obtained the Ecovadis Silver rating, a good first step towards our goal to be constantly improving. Our next move will be to assess our environmental impact at product level.
Furthermore, the use of our ingredients in feed formulations can generate returns for our customers in terms of conversion rate, overall efficiency, and intestinal health. These are significant parameters that can help them reduce the carbon footprint of their operations.
Considering all of this, at Bioiberica we think of “sustainability” as both an input and output of our business, likewise for our suppliers and customers.
[Feedinfo You are very proud of contributing to the circular bioeconomy through the production of your hydrolysed proteins. What do you have to say to sceptics who think that the price of resource recovery might outweigh the value of the materials recovered?
[Luis Solera] There are those that will look at the system and question whether it is economically worth the effort to convert side streams into something of value. And while we can see why they would approach the problem this way, for us we have always thought about it differently. Since our conception we have invested in developing and refining the processes we use to extract valuable ingredients from animal-origin raw materials, so we can comfortably sustain this circular process.
Plus, we are also continuing to add value to these products through our dedication to improving their outcomes for our customers. What motivates our research and development team is to contribute to the advancement of life sciences, a sector that works to improve global health following the One Health approach. To create value, we continuously invest in basic and applied research to offer the best solutions. For instance, in the last five years, we have published more than 30 scientific studies and we have an extensive patent portfolio with more than 50 applications granted. And it is worth it because throughout all these years we have become a reference in some product segments of the life sciences industry, in terms of improving the health of humans, animals and plants.
[Feedinfo] Let’s talk about sustainability and how your feed ingredients can, as you mentioned earlier, help your customers reduce their carbon footprint. Considering your Palbio & Nucleoforce ranges, what can you share about how these products can help farmers achieve their sustainability goals?
[Luis Solera] For us, applied research is one of the main drivers of our business and every year we dedicate numerous resources to demonstrate the efficacy of our products with different species, both land and aquatic animals. In recent years we have had a good return from these studies, which have allowed us to understand the benefits of our products and their influence on animal nutrition. They have also allowed us the confidence to state that our hydrolysed proteins and nucleotides are functional feed ingredients that have proven and measurable effects that benefit animal performance and health.
Our hydrolysed proteins are composed of free amino acids and bioactive peptides. Besides the excellent nutritional value of this kind of protein, we have outstanding research proving that bioactive peptides can have functional effects promoting health. In a recent study in piglets, these peptides showed the ability to interact with intestinal cells and trigger the expression of genes related with several positive metabolic functions.
On the other hand, our nucleotides have proven to be a useful tool in both aquaculture and livestock species to overcome common production challenges and stress situations. For example, two recently published studies showed that our nucleotides helped improve resistance against infection of Clostridum perfingens in broilers or Vibrio harveyi in shrimp. Nucleotides have also been proven to positively influence intestinal health by triggering the expression of genes related with the integrity of the intestinal barrier. This indicates that they are good candidates to support performance of diets in animals raised without antibiotics and ZnO.
We continue to invest in research and have many trials underway with the aim to extend the knowledge around our product’s application and deliver efficient tools to the entire animal nutrition community.
[Feedinfo] How has the recent lifting of the EU’s ban on the use of PAPs informed Bioiberica’s strategy in Europe?
[Luis Solera] We had first-hand experience with the ban following the BSE outbreak of the 1990s. Our product claims are very easy to prove and are accepted as safe by the market and regulators. This is the main reason why our activity in Southeast Asia was not impacted during the ASF crisis.
From our point of view, the authorisation of PAPs in poultry and swine feed is good news. There will be additional animal origin raw materials available for feed compounders and they will help support circular economy ambitions for the industry. This is what we have always been promoting with our hydrolysed proteins. In the current scenario there is an aim to reduce the EU’s dependency on certain protein sources, as well as the need to use materials that improve the carbon footprint of the food chain. Our strategy will be to keep reinforcing the message that animal origin ingredients from reliable companies are safe and efficient for feed manufacturers.
[Feedinfo] You have touched on ASF and the biosafety of your products, but let’s chat more about the specific processes that you are employing to ensure the safety of your hydrolysed protein products. And, also, how you are quelling their associated ASF fears in the market.
[Luis Solera] We have a unique scheme in the market to assure the biosecurity of our products, the so-called 6-Tier Safety Control System, with a mix of fine traceability over our supply chain and a proprietary industrial process. As we are part of the Saria Group, we have access to our raw material at the origin with the highest quality control. In our GMP/GMP+ facilities we undergo an enzymatic hydrolysis process that we have been refining over the decades, and that defines the characteristics of our hydrolysed proteins. Our Enzyneer technology guarantees that the average molecular weight of the protein is around 600 Da, and always below 10.000 Da. Furthermore, our process is certified by a third-party, the Texcell-Pasteur Institute, stating that our procedure removes, destroys and denaturalises any hypothetical viable virus or prion in the final product.
The biosecurity of our products is robust, but the hardest part is convincing users about it, particularly after ASF outbreak in many countries. Therefore, we have allocated lots of resources to explain to our network the characteristics of our process. We reacted fast after initial outbreaks in Southeast Asia to dispel doubts about our animal origin ingredients and, thanks to our actions, we were able to increase our business amid such a complex scenario.
[Feedinfo] As a science and innovation-led company committed to sustainable animal nutrition, how are you planning on further developing your profile in this sector? What are some of the projects you are working on right now?
[Luis Solera] As we are committed to being a zero-waste company, we are currently working on several challenging projects aimed at optimising our production technology to generate new products which will add value to our portfolio. We have research going on and, in the short and midterm, are really looking forward to launching new products and applications, and pushing towards a more sustainable, efficient and healthy animal industry.
And, of course, we are continuously seeking strategic collaborations with other companies or institutions that share our same philosophy in order to develop new opportunities and products to expand and strengthen our approach to the market.
Published in association with Bioiberica