We caught up with Novus’ sustainability manager Jake Piel last week at IPPE in Atlanta to hear about the company’s sustainability efforts.
“Our customers are also changing and our consumers are asking some different things of food producers these days – if Novus can help our producers to answer some of the questions that they’re being tasked with by consumers; it’s going to benefit the industry as a whole,” he said.
The company based some of its internal projects on priorities set by feed and animal producers, regulatory agencies and consumer groups, he said.
“That netted about 120 different topics,” he said. “And we took that list and whittled it down to something we can manage and into some buckets that can provide us some direction for our platform, so that is what we call the Novus sustainability priority compass.”
As part of its sustainability efforts, the company has set five areas of focus, said Piel. The areas include engaged and empowered employees; human health and nutrition; and customer productivity and profitability.
"Our products in their own right help our customers to improve their sustainability standards,” he said. For example, when adding an enzyme to a feed ration that can decrease the need for some feed ingredients that have a larger environmental footprint.
Another part of the project is assessing supply chain efficiency, he said. “We’re trying to reduce some of our logistics for getting certain products around the world and reducing our greenhouse gasses and energy usage in some of our production facilities.”
Novus has already reduced the greenhouse gas emissions and amount of energy used to produce a ton of product, said Piel. “We’ve seen improvements there on a manufacturing standpoint, and so what we’re looking into now is diving into some of our supply chain initiatives and how we move product from where it’s manufactured to our final customer,” he added.
This year the company is working on a project aimed at reducing the emissions involved in transporting one product by 40%, he said. “If we’re able to do that with one product that kind of steers the way for how we can do that for others as well,” he added.
Sustainable animal agriculture is another of the effort’s pieces, he said. That work looks to promote careers in agriculture and research.
The project also is sharing information about sustainability efforts within the agricultural community, said Piel. “This group came together and developed a standard for how to conduct a lifecycle assessment on the use of feed ingredients and livestock feed,” he added.
The overall work is important for the feed industry, he said. Additionally, it is giving the company a chance to establish criteria to evaluate its own production systems to make them more sustainable.
The company also has been taking part in an international effort with groups like the International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF) and the European Association of Specialty Feed Ingredients (FEFANA) to examine how the use of amino acids and phytase as feed additives change an animal’s diet, he said.
“We know that you’re able to reduce the amount of crude protein in a diet by using supplemental amino acids,” he said. “That crude protein comes from basal feed ingredients that have a large environmental footprint tied to them through the production, and harvesting and transportation of those ingredients.”
But, when you can reduce, even by a small amount, the use of crude protein there can be a large improvement, said Piel.
The research looks at understanding what those reductions in carbon footprint are by evaluating greenhouse gas emissions and the excretion of nitrogen and phosphorus, he said.
Currently, the company is in the process of running its first internal review of a feed additive to determine the footprint of the production process, said Piel. An exact timeline for the project is unclear as it is the first one to be evaluated.
“The intent is that we will utilize the same methodology to further evaluate and improve on the efficiency of our production processes,” he said.
A paper reporting the initial findings of the international examination of amino acids and phytase use is set to be out later this spring, he said.
“In March the group will be meeting to determine the steps for the next phase,” he said. “Do we want to take the same approach and start using the methodology for different types of feed ingredients like minerals other enzymes, or probiotics? Or is there a different direction that we need to go?”