Feed For Thought - by Jari Vehmaanperä


© Juha Rouvinen
© Juha Rouvinen

Last week (MAR 18th) Research Director Michael Bedford from AB Vista gave a  presentation on feed enzymes at the IBC Finland Seminar.  Feed enzymes has been one of the fastest growing segments in the industrial enzymes market and is now probably the largest in value, bigger than the detergent enzyme sector. Enzymes are used to upgrade the nutritional value of feed for particularly monogastric animals and phytase is by far the most important molecule in the business. Phytase releases the phosphorus from the feed phytin, which the animal cannot degrade and reduces the amount of added phosphorous needed.  Equally importantly it decreases the phosphorus emissions in the environment, as without the phytase the phytin phosphorus would pass undigested into manure. AB Vista’s aspiration is to become one of the world’s two biggest feed enzyme suppliers in the near future.

All AB Vista enzymes are produced by Roal Oy in Rajamäki, in the Alko’s old industrial area. The success of AB Vista has brought dozen of jobs to Nurmijärvi in the enzyme manufacturing , research and in the supporting functions. The owner Associated British Foods has invested millions of EUROs in the site. Development of enzyme products requires discovery and evolution of the molecules and sophisticated development of the production host, in this case Trichoderma. Upscaling the process demands skills in process engineering and formulation.

Finland was one of the pioneering countries in developing the feed enzyme business with companies like Finnfeeds and Alko Biotechnology / Primalco Biotec (now Roal and AB Enzymes). Tekes has funded and continues to fund Roal innovations in the development of the Trichoderma cell factory, and in evolving novel or improved enzyme molecules. Here the return of investment of the state funding has a proven positive track record.

Industrial enzymes is an excellent example of industrial biotechnology and bioeconomy. Use of enzymes in applications – e.g., in feed, detergents, baking, bioethanol – is a sustainable and enabling technology. Almost 100% of Roal’s enzymes are exported and they are high value products. The industry offers jobs for highly trained professionals, including scientists in molecular genetics, bioinformatics and synthetic biology. The Rajamäki site has attracted significant investments in Finland. The business has benefited from fruitful cooperation between the industry and research organizations.

The story of the feed enzymes shows that success in Industrial Biotechnology is perfectly possible in Finland. We have many other similar positive stories which do not easily hit the headlines. However, success does not happen overnight. It demands ideas, innovation, skilled people, hard work, cooperation, risk taking and often financial support.

On April 14th IBC Finland organizes an IBC Ideamylly, Ideamill workshop. You are invited! Ideas are needed to generate project proposals and projects are required to develop profitable new business in the Finnish biotechnology. E.g., in feed we are looking for alternatives AGPs (antibiotic growth promoters) and enzymes for ruminants. Any idea?

The writer is the Global Research Director of Roal and the Chairman of Industrial Biotechnology Cluster, IBC Finland