How DSM’s Precision Services are Improving Productivity and Sustainability Across Livestock Agriculture - INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVES

Source: DSM via Feedinfo

14 October 2022 - Advances in precision livestock farming and precision nutrition are giving us a clearer picture of how to optimize livestock and aqua farming. Offering information to help producers reduce costs, become more sustainable, identify investment opportunities and predict unknown health problems, these technologies are offering support to those in animal production and also ensuring we can effectively and efficiently feed our growing global population.

DSM is one organisation that has been developing solutions in this field with two key services. The first is Sustell™, an intelligent sustainability service being used for different monogastric and ruminant species and the second is Verax™, an animal health tool which is currently in place for poultry producers but will be rolled out to other species in the future.

Feedinfo sat down with Ivo Lansbergen, President of Animal Nutrition & Health at DSM to better understand why companies like DSM are investing in the precision technology space, their current solutions offering, the link between precision farming and sustainability operations, how precision services are leading to efficiencies throughout animal protein value chains and what is next for this field.


[Feedinfo] It has been just over a year since DSM launched its Sustell™ and Verax™ services. Why was it so important for the company to have a presence in the precision technology space?

Ivo Lansbergen
President of Animal Nutrition & Health

[Ivo Lansbergen] There has never been a more important time to innovate in livestock farming. At DSM, our mission is to lead a robust and achievable transformation in sustainable animal protein production worldwide and to accelerate solutions that will foster a brighter future. This defines how we serve customers in the feed, egg, milk, meat and aquaculture industries. Sustainable animal protein means providing a decent income for farmers and affordable, nutritious products for consumers while respecting animal welfare and the planet.

According to the OECD and FAO, agricultural productivity will have to grow nearly three times faster in the next decade than it did in the last one, in order to feed a growing global population and meet climate goals. 

At the same time advancements in technologies such as sensors, automation and machine learning are creating new opportunities for productivity growth in livestock farming based on the use of data.

In the fields of precision livestock farming and precision nutrition, a whole host of new applications based on the smart use of data are emerging, from process optimization to early warning systems, that promise to elevate the productivity and sustainability of animal protein to the next level. Investing in precision technology aligns itself to our ambition to be the partner of choice in the animal health and nutrition space in line with our Food System Commitments and We Make It Possible strategic initiative for a healthier future for people, planet and livelihoods.


[Feedinfo] What does the typical customer interested in these technologies look like?

[Ivo Lansbergen] Precision services are ultimately relevant for everyone involved in feed and animal production, including feed formulators, nutritionists, veterinarians and farmers, regardless of the size of the operation. That’s why we put considerable emphasis on usability and accessibility of our tools. As with the adoption of any technology, there are first movers in the industry who have strong affinity for innovation or sustainability and have already implemented Sustell™ and Verax™ in their operations.

We work with a variety of stakeholders in the feed and animal protein industries including feed companies, large integrators, cooperatives in most major agriculture-producing countries and across major livestock species: poultry, swine, ruminants and aquaculture. We also work with other stakeholders in the ecosystem who have strong interests in understanding and reducing the environmental footprint of farm animals, such as fast-moving consumer goods companies and financial institutions.  

[Feedinfo] You are calling Sustell™ a “first of its kind” technology. Can you tell us what the service entails and how it has helped DSM customers make better sustainability decisions than was previously possible?

[Ivo Lansbergen] Sustell™ is an intelligent sustainability service comprised of an environmental footprint calculation platform, supported by our multi-disciplinary Expert Center. Sustell™ calculates the full environmental footprint of animal protein production using primary farm and feed data, supplemented with accepted secondary databases. From cradle to farm gate, the service significantly improves the level of accuracy and decision-making in the direction of more sustainable animal protein production.

Customers initially use Sustell™ to gain a baseline understanding of the environmental footprint of their farms. These results can be of immense value as a business diagnostic tool to detect the footprint hot spots where environmental improvements can have the greatest impact and be readily achieved. Farmers can compare their footprints across multiple farms or to the relevant peer group, benchmarks, or targets, identifying best practices, areas for improvement and where to invest in a targeted way. Sustell™ has the functionality to run multiple ‘what if’ scenarios to forecast and select the best strategies for footprint improvements prior to implementing changes on farm. 

Sustell™ currently covers multiple species such as broilers, layers, swine, salmon and dairy. Each module has been developed with key industry stakeholders, using the latest LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) insights, accepted standards and methodologies, and uses the EU Product Environment Footprint (EU PEF) framework and assessment methods.


[Feedinfo] How is Verax™ changing the way customers are approaching animal health and the sustainability of their operations?

[Ivo Lansbergen] Verax™ is a great example of an early warning system that allows producers to see what is happening inside the animal, pinpoint potential issues and take corrective action before they get worse. Verax™ relies upon identifying blood biomarker signatures, using machine learning to detect the existence of specific diseases, see sub-optimal nutrition impacts, measure stress levels of birds and determine growth rates of birds among other things.

Several poultry customers in North America already use the custom-built Verax™ application to optimize their nutrition and health management programs, which enables them to achieve maximum performance with minimal waste. With raw feed material prices so high, we cannot afford to waste anything, so being able to detect and correct nutritional imbalances or health issues has never been so valuable. Verax™ gives producers the foresight to make their operations more efficient and sustainable.

[Feedinfo] While sustainability is a key goal, remaining profitable is a major concern for livestock producers, especially at a time when raw material and energy prices are eating into profits. How can precision services be of help here and what kind of savings can be expected?

[Ivo Lansbergen] The beauty of agriculture is that being more sustainable is an opportunity for profits, in the form of greater efficiency or new revenue opportunities. Precision technologies and sustainability initiatives become even more urgent when raw material and energy prices are high. For example, we find companies with high DOAs (dead on arrival) at the processor often assume the cause to be heat stress. Using Verax™ we frequently detect hypoglycemia in those flocks. This insight shifts our customers’ attention from investing in solutions such as installing fans and shade to checking grind size in feed and feed intake variances. Being able to pinpoint the real issue and take appropriate action saves producers considerable time and money. Verax™ provides that deeper look into the animals.

Cost savings is just one challenge. Let’s not forget about the license to operate. If regulators, capital providers and customers are not satisfied with the sustainability of your operation, your entire business could be in jeopardy. Sustell™ has been used by large integrators to map and plan environmental footprint improvements to meet their customers’ greenhouse gas emissions requirements and to secure attractive financing for projects like business expansion.


[Feedinfo] Considering the various differences and challenges being faced in monogastric and ruminant production systems, how reliably can Sustell™ and Verax™ be applied to all species?

[Ivo Lansbergen] It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are differences in biology, scientific knowledge and production systems at play, which is why we tailor the technology not just to each species but also to each segment. Today, various Sustell™ modules can measure the footprint of milk, pork, chicken meat, eggs and farmed salmon. We introduced Verax™ in poultry client operations starting in 2021, and we’re looking to extend its application to other terrestrial species in the near future.


[Feedinfo] How has DSM ensured the accuracy and validity of Sustell™ and Verax™? What checks have been put in place to ensure they are correct and deliver value for customers?

[Ivo Lansbergen] There is considerable scientific knowledge to back these innovations and ensure that they provide value for customers in the field. The Sustell™ intelligence platform uses the latest LCA standards, guidelines and resources for animal protein production, such as FAO LEAP, IPCC, EUPEF and associated EUPEFCR’s, the Agri-footprint database and the GFLI (Global Feed LCA Institute) database. Sustell™ is assured to ISO standards for LCA, ISO14040/44, by DNV.

To implement Verax™ we partnered with InsideTracker, an established leader in evidence-based human precision nutrition based on biomarkers. Their analytics platform and proprietary recommendation engine is 10 years in the making and adapted to accelerate biomarker-based precision nutrition in animals. For both tools our technical experts support customers in the field to help them achieve a positive return on investment.


[Feedinfo] What does the recent acquisition of Brazilian animal nutrition and technology company, Prodap mean for your precision services and DSM’s ambitions in this space? What can we expect to see in the near future?  

[Ivo Lansbergen] The DSM acquisition of Prodap represents a step forward in terms of advancing precision technologies for animal nutrition and providing our customers with innovative digital solutions to further increase productivity and sustainability of farm animals. What is unique here is the combination of digital solutions, consulting and specialised nutrition based on real-time data. These recent technologies can unleash deeper insights and offer more informed decision-making than ever before.

Looking ahead, our trajectory is very clear. For several years now we have been vocal about our strategic initiative, We Make It Possible, which defines how we engage with and support our customers, our mission and our commitment to stakeholders. It informs our decisions on innovation and where to invest. We must be convinced that we are able to make a positive contribution to 1) improving the lifetime performance of animals, 2) reducing food loss and waste, 3) reducing emissions from livestock, 4) making efficient use of natural resources, 5) reducing reliance on marine resources and 6) helping tackle antimicrobial resistance. We will only put our efforts into science and solutions that support our customers and also fit one or more of these platforms. I consider that a powerful promise.  


Published in association with DSM