Reports from IPPE 2016

‘I think we have a viable commercial product now,' says US developer of microalgae derived beta glucan

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© istock.com/NiroDesign
© istock.com/NiroDesign

Related tags: Algae

The past 12 months has seen Algal Scientific looking to demonstrate proof of efficacy for its algae sourced ingredient, Algamune, though large scale barn trials. 

The Michigan-based company has also been aiming to get to grips with the mode of action of the ingredient.

And the trial work is paying off: “Some of those poultry producers trialing the ingredient are shifting into paying customers. I think we have a viable commercial product now,”​ CEO Geoff Horst told FeedNavigator when we spoke to him at IPPE in Atlanta.

Algamune is a zinc polysaccharide complex containing beta 1,3-glucan that is said to support immune health for animals and is purported to help the poultry, shrimp and pig sectors limit the use of antibiotics. It is produced by growing a strain of non-GMO microalgae in controlled, sterile fermentation systems.

Algal Scientific has generated around $10m in capital over the past three years – a factor that enabled the company to double down its efforts in generating trial based efficacy data during 2015.

Barn trials

“What we did was take what we had learnt at the university scale, where we conducted pen trials, and then try and get out into the customers’ barns. They are the ones that we want to be proving efficacy with and so, a real goal in the past 12 months was to have them start doing those large scale studies,”​ said Horst.

A lot of that research was undertaken on farms in Europe where they are not allowed use antibiotics, he said.

“We had trials in Hungary, Romania, and in Germany but also in China, Taiwan and, domestically, here in the US as well. So we really did branch out worldwide. A lot of these were done through partnerships with some early distributors who went out and tried it out on their best farms or farms aiming to be more progressive,”​ said the CEO.

In terms of the number of birds included in those trials, Horst said it was at the largest scale: “We shipped out about 40 tons of Algamune in 2015, which is about enough to feed about 80 million chickens​.”

He said most of the trials were done at full commercial scale: “So in the US, we had trials involving barns of 20,000 to 30,000 birds per house. In Europe, they have larger barns where they group multiple houses together in one barn so some of the trials would have involved several hundred thousand birds at a time.”

The company saw proof of efficacy – a positive impact that delivered a good economic ROI – mostly in the trials, under industrial conditions, where there were no antibiotics being administered.

“We are targeting a least a two or three times return on investment – so if you put in about $2 worth of our ingredient per ton of feed, the goal is to be delivering at least $6 worth of reduced feed costs or improved economic performance through better growth rates or reduced mortality – so that is what we have been seeing,”​ said Horst.

“In the end, we are really trying to deliver a positive economic ROI, and sometimes that just means pulling out $4 worth of ingredients and replacing them with $2 worth of our product,”​ he continued.

In a meta-analysis of trials in a variety of settings, Algal Scientific concluded that Algamune provides little benefit under clean university conditions but trials in commercial or challenged environments show an improvement of FCR of 3 to 10 points.

Challenge studies 

Horst also told us about the results of some of the challenge trials done recently.

“When we do coccidiosis or necrotic enteritis challenges, that is where we also see a really nice benefit – sometimes we see a much higher return than the standard 3x ROI in those scenarios. But we also need to ensure a beneficial ROI even in the conditions where there is not an acute disease challenge but more a chronic or low grade pathogenic or environment stress.”

“We are still at the very early stages of this ingredient. People have trialed it now for three years. But we are getting closer to knowing the effective dose response for maximum benefits for poultry and swine. We are definitely starting to dial in the right dosage levels now,”​ he said.

Horst said that in terms of dosage rates, 100 grams per ton is proving effective for the poultry industry, while the effective dose rate for aquaculture is much higher – up to 500 grams per ton. “High costs in the aquaculture sector, where disease can be rampant, can be justified.”

Mode of action

A percentage of the R&D work done in the past 12 months has been about trying to fully understand the mode of action of Algamune, he said.

The developer conducted numerous trials with leading academic and commercial research facilities, said the CEO, in order to document that the product is a beneficial immunomodulator.

Relying on mice models at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, the researchers showed such functionality, he said, by measuring various parameters of the innate and adaptive immune systems.

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