Microbiota development: BASF incubator spin off selected for state-run accelerator program

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Kharkhan_Oleg
© GettyImages/Kharkhan_Oleg

Related tags worms Immune system Gut health chicks piglets

Corbiota, which emerged from BASF accelerator, Chemovator, supplies live worms to piglets and chicks to bolster their immune systems.

The recently established Düsseldorf, Germany based startup has just been accepted into a scale-up program supported by the ministry of economic affairs, industry, climate protection and energy of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The scheme is aimed at helping startups develop their full potential.

We spoke to Pascal Heithorn, co-founder and CCO of Corbiota, to hear more about the company’s research work and its growth strategy.

Unlike Black soldier fly (BSF) or mealworm developers, he said the company is not about providing protein or fat alternatives. Instead, it is fully focused on microbiota development.

“Feeding pathogen free live worms - earthworms - that have been bred under special conditions to young animals right at the beginning of the rearing period helps with the transfer of complex microbiota. Worms administered to young animals such as chicks and piglets [and even companion animals] help support optimal health and growth.”

Antibiotic reduction

The worms (Dendrobena veneta) strengthen the young animals’ eubiosis, the natural balance of microorganisms in their gut and immune system, and trigger their natural instincts, maintains Heithorn.

“They grow up stronger, healthier and more resistant to disease, which reduces the need for antibiotic treatments - one of the biggest global challenges in agriculture today.”

The worms contain 10% crude protein and 1% crude fat.  

Research trials 

The team believes in innovation-based and dynamic research and development, said the co-founder. 

“We have conducted more than ten scientific trials with well-known institutes and universities, and we have ongoing field trials running. In total, we have fed live worms to over 900,000 chicks and to around 2,000 piglets.”

The research showed, among other things, improved weight gain and feed conversion (FCR), a better immune system in the animals and thus lower mortality, as well as a reduction in pododermatitis.

Trials also demonstrated an increase in the mobility of the animals - by up to 21% - which represents an improvement in animal welfare - as well as an ROI for fatteners of at least 3, commented Heithorn.

Vertical farming 

Corbiota's modularly structured production plant in Düsseldorf is QS and GMP certified; it is fully automated, and AI controlled and based on a vertical farming system. “We produce based on a zero-waste principle.”

The startup is currently targeting piglet and chick production in the EU, the US, and Latin America with a plan to expansion into the APAC region in time.

BASF remains a shareholder in the company.

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