FeedNavigator caught up with Dr Menno Thomas, founder of agribusiness consultancy Zetadec, and Dr Wouter Hendriks, chair of Animal Nutrition at the Department of Animal Sciences at Wageningen University, to discuss directions for future technological research.

Both Dr Thomas and Dr Hendriks were contributors to a multi-authored paper​ that summarized the discussions that took place during the first International Feed Technology Conference (IFTC) workshop, and concluded that “animal feed has a social responsibility to contribute to more sustainable food systems”​.

“The working group was convened to work out what needs to happen in terms of feed technology for the future,”​ Dr Hendriks told FeedNavigator.

In Dr Hendriks’ view, one of the biggest issues facing the future of the feed industry is a shortage of raw materials.

“Many of the materials that used to go into animal feed are being diverted into biorefinery systems and other outlets. On top of this, the food industry is getting better and better at extracting nutrients from all sorts of raw materials. So we are seeing huge pressure on existing raw feed materials, plus those materials we have relied upon until now are becoming leaner in nutritional value,”​ he said.

Potential in co-products

Dr Hendriks sees the valorization of co-products as a key solution to bridging this gap. However, he said this is not without its challenges.

“Co-products tend to be characterized by more fiber, less starch and variable protein quality, so feed technology needs to work out how to transform all of that into high value feed materials and incorporate it – preferably into a pellet because that is the format that works best for the industry.”