The German chemical company and a bevy of other investors are ploughing $3 million into Algamune from US firm Algae Scientific – it is a beta-1,3-glucan polysaccharide for use in the diets of pigs, poultry and shrimp.
Geoff Horst, CEO of Algae Scientific, said the funding from the Evonik-led consortium boosts its reputation, allows it to tap into the German firm’s fermentation expertise and, critically, provides it with a war chest to accelerate commercialization of the technology.
“We have met the metrics on production efficiency and are ready for commercial scale-up. The fermentation tanks were installed in February and we have already been producing biomass - we have a decent quantity of product already.
However, any expansion will be demand driven, and we are now waiting for large contracts to come in. But we are lacking expertise in how to engage with the animal feed sector - the funding will, in part, help us tackle the market side of Algamune’s development,” said Horst.
Future growth potential
Karin Assmann, communications spokesperson for Evonik, told this publication that its backing of the algae technology is in line with its venture capital strategy of accelerating the development of new businesses and opening up future growth fields.
“Algal contributes toward sustainable animal nutrition. In view of the growing global population and the subsequent increasing demand for animal protein, this is an interesting market with attractive growth potential,” she said.
Adding beta-1,3-glucans into the diet of broiler chickens can bolster their immune system so their response to disease, stress or vaccination is more robust, while beta-glucans can also bind mycotoxins in feed and limit their bioavailability in the digestive tract, says the US firm.
Low production costs
Horst told FeedNavigator.com that the algae derived beta-glucan is more cost effective than the standard yeast derived variety in that there is no extraction process involved at all.
“In fact, the beta-glucan content in yeast is low and it is not bioavailable without an expensive extraction step. This has rendered it too costly for widespread use as an animal feed ingredient except in high margin species like salmon, shrimp, and calves.
Our proprietary algal technology can help the poultry and pig sectors reap the benefits of beta-1,3-glucan as we produce a whole algae meal that contains over 50% beta-glucan and is bioavailable without further extraction,” said the boss of the Michigan based developer.
Field research boosted
Horst said the consortium’s funding also allows Algae Scientific to continue its efficacy trials on its beta-glucan with the industry. He said the company has already achieved promising results with its ‘early adapter’ poultry producer customers in field evaluations of the dried algae meal.
“We are stepping up our research efforts to the full barn scale, which will include 10 to 15,000 broilers per treatment group, having already undertaken various pen trials with around 12 to 15 birds per pen involving about 100 pens,” he said.
The pen trials showed high feed conversion using the algae derived beta-glucan as a feed additive along with fast growth rates in broilers, indicating a significant return on investment, said Horst.
“We are actively doing trials with pigs and have had good results with shrimp,” said the CEO, adding that the disease prevention benefits of the beta-glucan are of far more importance to the aquaculture sector than feed costs.
Start-ups to support ‘open innovation’
Evonik said it plans to invest a total of €100m in other highly promising start-ups as a way of supplementing its ‘open innovation ‘ approach.
This outlay will comprise projects in Europe, the US and Asia, said the amino acid producer.