Irish firm champions use of wet feed co-products as it secures large US deal

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/AFransen
© GettyImages/AFransen

Related tags: Ethanol fuel, co-products, Dairy, Beef, pigs

Ireland’s Specialist Nutrition has signed a five-year deal, worth €135m, with US-based Attis Industries to supply by-products from that producer’s corn ethanol plant as sustainable feed to local farmers.

Part of the Arvum Group, the Waterford-based, Specialist Nutrition, is a business that manages and distributes co-products produced by the distilling, brewing and biofuel industries into sustainable animal feed; it is particularly specialized in the management of moist or liquid feeds, perishable co-products, targeted at the dairy, beef and swine farming sectors. 

In what is its first US deal, it has established a US base in Syracuse, New York to market and distribute 500,000 tons of such feed co-products annually into the state’s dairy farming sector from Attis Industries' corn ethanol plant in Fulton. 

roy power arvum group
Roy Power, CEO, Arvum Group

“Our job is to protect the value that is produced in co-products and get that value transferred onto farm. It is about minimizing waste, reducing transport time, ensuring those wet feeds are safely transported and safely used on farm, and backing that up with nutritionists on the ground.  

“By putting in a supply chain that is quality assured and supported by the right technical people, we can preserve and transfer that value so everyone in the industry gets [a return] from these products,”​ Arvum Group CEO, Roy Power, told FeedNavigator. 

Two co-products result if there is no drying at the end of the distilling processes - a wet cake and a liquid product.

We advise the farmers or their nutritionists on where these kind of products fits into the diet, on how to best use them, we assist them on how best to preserve such products on farm. At the processing plant, we advise on how to handle the products so as not to denature, in any form or shape, the protein content within them. We provide expertise along the supply chain.

"When you are dealing with a perishable item of large volumes, you need the confidence and the experience to do it, otherwise it will become a fool’s game.”

Such feed products can help replace concentrates, imported protein sources or can be used to extend forage, continued Power.

“If we can get those products in a fresh, assured state on farm, they can be fed effectively. If the product is valued on a dry matter basis, it will always be good value, but it is worth significantly more than that because a moist feed, added to a TMR, will always enhance animal feed intake, it is highly palatable and an excellent protein source.”

Specialist Nutrition experts spent a year working with the team at Attis, walking them through this new co-product development process to the point where they were confident to sign a five-year deal. 

Attis wants to transform its Fulton facility, recently acquired from Sunoco, into a premier GreenTech campus, and it said this new wet co-product to feed stream will be the first step in such a transformation, as the costly drying at the end of the distilling process is taken out along with the plant's carbon footprint being lowered.

Sustainability story 

The drive to be more sustainable is behind the increasing interest of brewers, distillers and bioethanol producers, in the US and elsewhere, in such wet feed co-product streams, said Power. 

“These very large companies want to reduce their carbon footprint, spend less money drying product unnecessarily and getting co-products onto local farms rather than exporting them around the world. 

“The US, for example, produces around 38 million metric tons of DDGS from the ethanol industry currently, and about 30% of that is exported globally. So not only do US ethanol producers have the expense of drying, they also have the expense of shipping product to the coast and then to places like Ireland, the UK and France. 

“What we can do is to helpreduce energy consumption in these plants and bring co-products local."

US, European expansion 

A wet co-product supply chain, though, is not possible everywhere; it suits certain regions with high animal numbers located within a 200km radius of facilities with the necessary output. “Where it is possible, common sense and [adherence to sound] environmental [practices] would dictate co-products should not be dried, but should be fed wet, and locally.”

Power sees multiple opportunities for its business in the US: “The 38 MMT of dried distillers produced in the US would equate to 80 or 90 million tons of wet feed, so [the 500K deal with Attis] is only a drop in the issue.”

While it is all about dairy in New York, he sees expansion potential down the East Coast: “We will be feeding beef and pigs as we progress in the US”

The Irish company is also in discussions with processors based in continental Europe. Starch and sugar industries, or any primary processors of food products, from chip to crisp factories, as well as ethanol can generate the wet co-products required. “The attraction with ethanol is the huge volumes available on site.”

In Ireland, the company feeds the wet co-products to pigs, beef and dairy. In terms of sources of such feed ingredients in that market, he said “One of Europe’s largest breweries is Diageo and its Guinness business, and we handle co-products from that. An industry that is growing in Ireland now is the whiskey industry, it has experienced a tremendous boom in the past ten years and continues to grow. Irish distillers don’t dry any product now, they turned off their driers this year; it all goes moist to local farmers, it is a super sustainability story.”

Seeking talent 

The potential is massive, given the changing nature of agriculture and the environmental pressures faced by industry, said the CEO.

“Innovation and supporting technology like we are doing is going to make a difference. We are not reinventing the wheel but making plants and farmers more efficient.”

However, getting bigger means boosting internal company resources, and recruitment has its challenges, said Power. The company encourages an entrepreneurial spirit and sees the building of trusted relationships with primary processors as critical to its growth strategy, but the CEO said attracting people with a hunger for innovation, and the ability to develop such relationships is not always that easy. “We are on the lookout for talent.”

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