The two partners have been working together since 2008 on research into saponin-based plants and their benefits in animal nutrition. Now they want to "go deeper" and broaden out that earlier research effort.
Dr Pierre Chicoteau, founder and CEO of Nor-Feed, said FeedInTech aims at developing “precision animal nutrition” by connecting the human resources, expertise and technology of both partners. David Guilet, professor of chemical analysis, Angers University and SONAS, will coordinate LabCom FeedInTech.
Nor-Feed's botanical feed additive range includes grape extract antioxidants for oxidative stress reduction, citrus-based prebiotics for gut health, and saponin extracts for optimizing meat and milk output.
The focus of FeedInTech, he said, is the fine characterization of such additives, the study of their mode of action and the development of predictive models, ensuring the traceability, stability and homogeneity of the active molecules present in the additives.
This research alliance between SONAS and the French SME has been awarded funding of €300K over three years under the LabCom initiative by France’s national research agency (ANR), with a large capital injection by Nor-Feed in the project as well, said the CEO.
The lab is now operational and the team has begun work on further exploring the impact of citrus extracts, for example, on the animal’s gut microbiota, he said.
One of Nor-Feed’s citrus extract products, Nor Spice AB, is already used in 25% of the total volume of piglet feed in France. Now, the company wants to generate more data on the product and extend its applications, he told FeedNavigator.
The botanicals producer also wants to develop the next generation of its saponin-based natural coccidiostat, Norponin XO, an extract used in feed for several species.
Chicoteau said there was a limited volume in the supply of the particular saponin-containing source the company is relying upon today. It now wants to develop another “active formulation” based on a saponin-containing plant that is more widely available. That will require further study.
“We can then do more [with Norponin], increase the volume of production and grow the market.”
In terms of the characterization and quantification research approach, the FeedInTech team will extract the active compounds from the plant product using advanced-technologies such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance; that step should allow for accurate dosing of the active molecules in the feed.
The mode of action work will focus on the physiological response of the animal fed a diet supplemented with a particular plant extract. The goal is to have an accurate indication of the mechanisms involved to ensure the effectiveness of Nor-Feed extracts.
“There will be in-vitro, ex-vivo and in-vivo studies carried out,” said Chicoteau
Insects will be used as models to study the impact of plant extracts on the gut microbiome. Developing biological models with animals that are easier to handle, such as insects, makes it possible to draw parallels with farm animals, with obvious advantages in terms of cost, among others, he explained.