The patent was issued to the Kansas State University (KSU) Research Foundation, a not for profit corporation responsible for managing technology transfer activities at that university.
“The US is evidently a massive market in terms of feed additives so this development provides a huge incentive to accelerate commercialization of the technology,” Jim Drouillard, professor of animal sciences and industry at KSU, told FeedNavigator today.
He developed the protein-based film coatings along with Tom Herald, a food chemist and adjunct professor of grain science and industry and Matthew Greenquist, a former graduate student of KSU, in a bid to find a more cost effective alternative to existing lipid forms.
“We had been working on a project revolving around the supplementation of the diets of cattle in feedlots with choline and we were delighted with the growth response we were getting.
However, choline is expensive and the encapsulation of it with lipid coatings made its use cost prohibitive. Thus, that set us on the path to identifying other barrier technologies,” said Drouillard.
Protein based barrier technology
Their encapsulation technology involves an isolated corn or wheat protein being solubilized in water or ethanol. The vitamin or other nutrient is then added to the solution. Next, the solution containing the nutrient is dried into cellophane-like sheets or spray dried into a powder form.
"It's a very simple, but very elegant method for protecting nutrients," said Drouillard. “It produces something that looks like peanut brittle on a microscopic level.”
"You've got the hard candy part and then these little lumps that represent the peanuts inside the candy. In our case, the peanuts are choline or whatever vitamin we've added, and the candy portion is a protective film that forms from the solute."
He said this approach saves on resources as well as less material is needed compared to lipid derived barrier methods.
The researchers found that the protein-based film coatings are effective barriers against premature digestion of nutrients by the gut bacteria.
Once the material bypasses the rumen and ends up in the gastric portion of the animal's stomach, strong acids in the stomach dissolve the coating, releasing the nutrient so the animal can absorb it, said the professor.
Drouillard said the team licensed the patent to Afgrifeed, a South African feed manufacture. “That company got wind of the project and saw huge potential in the technology. I understand it is now in the process of scaling it up,” he added.
The professor is currently focused on exploiting the potential of by-products of the biofuels industry and food processing sector for use in cattle feed.