US: New unit due for production of bio-functional feed technologies

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/ Phonix_a
© GettyImages/ Phonix_a
Ab E Discovery's commercial arm is launching a feed ingredient support and manufacturing facility in Wisconsin.

Ab E Manufacturing is the commercial production side of Ab E Discovery; it is focused on process development and manufacturing of early stage bio-functional feed ingredients. The company plans to offer its services to university researchers and businesses, delivering product and helping design processes on a variety of scales. 

The company broke ground on its new, 25,000 sq ft feed additive production and research facility on May 10 in the city of Waterloo, Wisconsin.

Eric Salm, president of Ab E Manufacturing, said the building work is set to be completed in October this year, when the focus will then switch to installing the needed production equipment. The project included an initial $3.5m investment, but the expectation is that the total cost could be in the range of $10m-15m, he said.

The company has been working with the city of Waterloo and the state of Wisconsin. to establish the new facility.

“There have been financial investments that come with the stipulation of generating high quality, high paying jobs in the community,” ​said Salm. “And we’ve been fortunate to get support from the city and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.”

The goal of the current timeline is to see the start of delivery of functional products by the start of 2019, he said. 

The new facility will be staffed by skilled production scientists and engineers and will specialize in providing manufacturing and scale-up solutions to help animal health and nutrition innovators bring bio-functional feed ingredients to market.

“We’ve talked with other universities outside of the University of Wisconsin-Madison about the role that we envision playing in the commercialization process and the reception that we’ve got has been almost daunting [in that] it’s been so enthusiastic," ​said Salm.

The idea is that the facility will make specialized processes like encapsulation more accessible.

“The plan is to operate [the new facility] as a contract manufacturer,” ​he told us. “We’ve also built in 25,000 square feet of R&D lab space so we can do additional pilot-scale build-up and then flexibility within the lab so they can go from lab to scale-up. So over time, we can hit the wider breadth of bio-functional feed ingredient space beyond eggs, encapsulation or [see whether we can] derive technologies around the purification of component."

Background 

Ab E Discovery was founded in 2015 to address the gap between the research and discoveries that university scientists make and what is needed to make a marketable product, said Salm. It was born out of experiences that Mark Cook, former professor of animal science with the University of Wisconsin-Madison had developing products generated from feed additive research​.

“He realized there was a gap where maybe the university professors aren’t suited for commercialization,” ​Salm said. “They need a resource available to help them through the process, to realize the impact in the marketplace of their discovery.”

While the goal of AB E Discovery is help scientists transition their technology from initial discovery through commercialization, Ab E Manufacturing will provide product development support, supply chain development work and also help in navigating the regulatory process, said Salm.

“We can figure out these critical pieces, but if you can’t make the product you can’t sell the product,” ​he said.

"These technologies, which are groundbreaking discoveries, have to get past the valley of death and, a lot of times, they don’t,”​ he said. “We’re trying to get past that, to boost the potential success – to make the product – to get it out there.”

Bio-functional feed ingredients

The company is focusing on work with animal nutrition and what it calls “bio-functional”​ feed ingredients, in part because of Cook’s background and earlier work with the college of agriculture at the University of Wisconsin, said Salm. However, it also is an area of increasing interest as producers seek additional antibiotic alternatives.

“The rationale for this space is the push for natural alternatives,” ​he said. “The push for a healthier food supply is not going away – the history of using antibiotics in animal agriculture is clearly on the way out.”

“There is a gulf of available solutions out there that meet the criteria that are in demand and are going to continue to be in demand,”​ he said. “There continues to be growth in bio-derived, naturally functioning feed ingredients”

The company has been looking at the potential of that market as it is a space with “great potential,”​ he added.

Egg antibody

The first product that will go through the new manufacturing facility will be egg antibody focused on supporting gut health, and thereby the growth and welfare of poultry - Cosabody.

The Ab E Discovery group has put several years of work into trials and testing of the feed additive.

“We licensed it to Elacno’s animal health [unit] – we’re allowing them to carry it forward, but they’ve seen what we’ve done,” ​he said. “That’s our first flag in the ground and we view that as success.”

“We’ll be doing further processing and pasteurization of Cosabody and retaining the functionality of the underlying component,” ​he said. “The critical piece of the puzzle is a fluidized bed processing unit where we dry the eggs and encapsulate them in a substrate to ensure that as the product goes through the animal feed preparation process downstream with eventual customers that it will retain the functional products.”

Encapsulation can be a major hurdle for feed additives as many feed ingredients need to survive the steam pelleting process, he added.

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