22 February 2021- From playing a role in improving livestock health, to optimizing nutrition, improving milling efficiencies and contributing to sustainability, the challenges facing feed mills are significant. Add the disruptions of a global pandemic, and the feed industry is is dealing with layers of complexity it has never dealt with before.
GS Ramesh, Worldwide Group President of Animal Nutrition and Health at Kemin Industries, explained to Feedinfo how a focus on customer service, product and technology innovation, and knowledge sharing is helping its global customer base during these unprecedented times.
[Feedinfo] Kemin has developed a wide variety of services and products as part of its livestock nutrition and health portfolio. How are these products helping to improve animal protein production?
[GS Ramesh] In the last two years, we have aligned our solutions into categories, covering intestinal health, enzymes, liquid solutions, ruminant protected products and specialty proteins. Each category addresses very specific needs of the customer and are the target areas to drive long-term growth over the next 10-15 years. With that in mind, all of our research, marketing and customer support resources are aligned to focus on these areas.
These product categories are important to Kemin because they address significant challenges our customers are facing each day. For example, reducing the use of antibiotics is a key industry theme which starts with animals maintaining the best possible shape and state of wellness to manage possible disease challenges. This is done by optimising their nutrition and supporting their health and immune status. Another industry theme relates to producing animal feed efficiently, including optimising feed formulations, maximising nutrient utilisation and reducing non-digested nutrients. An efficient feed mill operation, delivering safe and high-quality feed, should be a top priority. By addressing these industry themes, you improve animal production and achieve high-quality animal growth, while making the whole production system more efficient and sustainable.
[Feedinfo] A number of Kemin’s products focus on improving ruminant sustainability — something many producers are already taking very seriously. How can your products help businesses reduce their environmental footprints even further?
[GS Ramesh] The Ruminant Essentialities program focuses on creating a sustainable ruminant nutrition and health concept while taking care of the environment. We can’t talk about livestock sustainability without mentioning environmental pollution from ruminant production into waterways, land and air. This is where precision nutrition and formulation using rumen protected amino acids can improve animal efficiency. By delivering amino acids efficiently and with better nutrient bioavailability, we can reduce environmental pollution, optimise animal health and improve efficacy, making a big difference in the way ruminant production is managed. Kemin has invested significantly in this area in the last few years and will continue to do so based on those important reasons.
Kemin's sustainable solutions focus on reducing nitrogen and phosphorus excretion, reducing carbon footprints and improving animal welfare, all while continuing to support customers with the necessary calculations and evaluation; including improving responsible raw material usage. These solutions are beneficial for lifecycle analysis, animal welfare and for milk producers and consumers. Our work over the past several years has confirmed the need for rumen protected amino acid implementation through balancing diets in every ruminant feed, for both large and small animals.
The Kemin KESSENT® product range, born from Kemin’s expertise in encapsulation technology, is an excellent example of a sustainable solution. KESSENT supports our Ruminant Essentialities portfolio, making it a third-generation rumen protected Methionine and Lysine. We combine this in a total solution, partnering with our customers for support and know-how to achieve optimal results.
[Feedinfo] High quality feed and efficient feed production are important factors in the sector’s sustainability, something Kemin’s millSMART programme is working to address. How does the system help feed producers improve efficiencies?
[GS Ramesh] The core focus of the millSMART program is to help producers reduce variation in their feed production processes and formulations, thus ensuring they maintain feed quality, produce safe feed and limit inefficiencies. Quality equals lack in variation, which achieves a standardised production process and output. A second focus is to help enhance efficiencies in the facility, by improving throughput, reducing energy consumption while improving the texture of the feed through increased pellet quality characteristics. By focusing on reducing the variation in the formulated feed and the process conditions, we are able to achieve a feed which meets the highest quality standards and contributes to sustainable feed production.
The millSMART program starts by looking at the status of the mill operation and its production process. Through our laboratory services, we monitor the actual status and establish a baseline. Our technical teams work with the feed mill stakeholders to identify areas for improvement. Here our application solutions team offers their expertise through installing a tailored, state-of-the-art solution. Much of that involves establishing real-time measurements of feed composition and adjusting the process. By capturing data through the process, we provide customers with the information they need to manage their production processes more efficiently.
[Feedinfo] Kemin has recently been focusing on enzyme research and production. What are the company’s goals in that area, and do you have any new innovations coming to the market in 2021?
[GS Ramesh] Enzymes are a significant part of our animal nutrition and health portfolio, in both pet food ingredient processing and specialty protein production, as well as in our biofuel solutions and textiles auxiliaries’ portfolios.
In the animal nutrition sector, we have two areas of focus on enzymes: One is identifying strains which can deliver intrinsically heat stable enzymes, and to that end, we have developed a heat stable xylanase (Xygest™ HT dry), which has launched in Asia. We’re in the process of registering the product in Sub-Saharan Africa, LATAM, Europe and the United States. To support this work, we have invested in a fermentation specialist, CRVAB, to scale-up our operations and control the production quality.
The second area of focus is in encapsulation technology which makes other enzymes heat stable and secures slow release in the digestive tract. Examples are our protease enzymes (Kemzyme™ Protease) and slow release amylase (Kemzyme™ Amylase dry). Kemin will continue to innovate and invest in various coating technologies which are applied across rumen protected products and enzyme applications.
[Feedinfo] Intestinal health has become a growing area of investment in the livestock sector. What is different about Kemin’s approach to developing products which improve gut health?
[GS Ramesh] The area of intestinal health is experiencing the biggest change in various markets as customers move away from using antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) or chemical interventions to produce food. They need alternative solutions, and we know there’s no single solution that will address all the needs of the customer, so the Kemin approach is to look at multiple ways of providing support to the gut including supporting gut integrity, microbial balance and immunity and proactively addressing viral, bacterial and parasitic challenges.
We have significant activity in those solution areas. Our earliest development in this category was Kemin’s antimicrobial probiotic (CLOSTAT®), developed in 2003. Since then, we have continued to build the portfolio to add immune support products like our 1,3 beta-glucan products (ALETA™). We’ve focused on the very different role essential oils play in gut health, and we produce our own essential oils that we encapsulate and deliver to customers. Our approach has been to understand the specific need of the customer and then help them by providing appropriate solutions to address their challenges in using an expert opinion, analytical services or product intervention.
It’s vital to understand specific customer challenges and it must make sense for their production system. Ultimately, we believe good gut health, good farm management practices, biosecurity, safety and quality help us deliver a solution.
[Feedinfo] Kemin has increased its focus on aquaculture by creating an independent aquaculture division. What progress has been made in developing products for this segment of the protein production industry?
[GS Ramesh] We see huge opportunity to make a big difference in the way food from aquaculture is produced. Over the last two years, Kemin has invested significantly in R&D and human capital, hiring more than 50 team members to support our aquaculture customers globally. A major aquaculture focus area is developing specialty proteins as an alternative to fishmeal. Shrimp processing generates 45% by-product in the form of head and shell. If this industry is to grow, finding a use for the by-product is critical. We’re looking for industry partners to address this challenge and better understand how we can convert the by-product stream into a valuable nutrient making the whole production process more sustainable overall.
Also, we’ve set up dedicated research teams in India and China to focus on shrimp and fish research, respectively. Both teams are collaborating extensively with universities and research institutions around the world to work on new disease and nutritional challenges the industry is facing.
[Feedinfo] How did Kemin adapt to support the industry during the global pandemic? What challenges do you expect to see during the coming year?
[GS Ramesh] Our first step was to ensure our employees and their families were safe, and our business continuity protocols were functioning. The biggest challenge was to ensure the supply chain and logistics were secure in order to continue to meet customer demand and deliver products in a timely manner. In a crisis situation, it’s important to keep our production running at full capacity so orders won’t get delayed and build up our inventory. Since the start of the pandemic, all of our global facilities have generated record production. In the matter of direct customer support to service the liquid application systems as part of our millSMART™ program, luckily, our high-end systems had previously been installed and could be serviced remotely. When physical presence was required, we worked with customers to ensure both they and Kemin staff, remained safe at all times.
Another customer support example from this past year is when the Chinese government announced that producers would have to stop using AGPs as of July 1, 2020. The pandemic added an additional challenge for this transition. We worked closely with customers to help tailor their programs. During the period from April to June, we held a series of webinars for more than 10,000 participants which included experts from around the world offering their advice on handling the AGP transition. For Kemin, it’s about serving our customers by not only providing the solution, but also bringing knowledge to them to assist in addressing their challenges. Our essential production teams and proactive business continuity plans allowed us to operate just as effectively as we did pre-COVID-19.
In the coming months, ongoing travel restrictions may still create challenges. However, the implementation of new digital solutions continues to accelerate and be embraced across industries which allows for less business disruption. With a foundation of innovation, we know it’s crucial to recognise change, be agile to adaptation and continue to listen and act on behalf of customers. At Kemin, we’re proud of our customer service and it remains our top priority as it has been for six decades and will continue to be in the future.