Friday, April 26, 2013

The Aquafeed Interview: Thad Simons, Novus

Novus recently celebrated its 22nd birthday!

Novus International, Inc. was founded in 1991, but its scientific roots and history originated over 50 years ago. In the 1950s, St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto Company began conducting livestock and poultry feed metabolism studies. In 1959, one of its products received FDA approval as an animal feed additive, which helped launch the Monsanto division that would become Novus.

In 1991, in an effort to focus on its core businesses—seed, herbicide and biotechnology—Monsanto sold its Feed Ingredients division to Mitsui & Co., Ltd. and Nippon Soda Co., Ltd. The new owners saw Novus’s strategic potential for growth.

International Aquafeed had the opportunity in London recently to interview the head of Novus, President and CEO Thad Simons, who says his organisation’s Vision is to “help feed the world affordable, wholesome food.”

To set the scene, what are Novus’ principle technologies especially for aquaculture?
Consumer demand for fish-based protein in emerging and developed markets is on the rise. At current market demand, 7 million tons of aquaculture fish are produced annually and this figure will continue to increase. Yet, the traditional model uses ocean fish for producing fishmeal to supply aquaculture production. As producers look for cheaper, more renewable feedstocks, vegetable protein, especially soybean, has become an increasingly attractive ingredient in the feed mix.
However, vegetable protein requires assistance to increase its bioavailability for aqua species.

Novus technology, which enhances the digestibility of vegetable protein, allows for considerable reductions of fishmeal inclusion in aqua diets, up to 80 percent, depending on the species.

This optimized health through nutrition approach is accomplished through a highly cost efficient feed supplement solution blend. Novus’s proprietary blend of gut environment modifiers influences the gut flora (microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts) of shrimp and other species, effectively enhancing their ability to cope with stressful culture conditions. As a result, animals eat better, digest
more and grow faster, all the while reducing the waste of uneaten or non-digested feed into the surrounding system.

Can you put Novus into a global context for the feed industry?
Our total sales worldwide are over US$1 billion.  Our heritage is amino acids, through our Alimet and MHA products.  Working from a strong base of scientific understanding of animal health, we have brought to market more than 100 new products over the past decade in categories including minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and pigments. Today the Novus product portfolio provides a holistic approach to Health through Nutrition for fish, poultry, cattle, pigs, pets and horses.

Methionine is one product, but what other innovative products is Novus working on?
From methionine we have developed other products such as chelated trace minerals that can be delivered to animal in an efficient way. These products have the potential to reduce the amount of minerals we feed to animals by improving bio-availability. That will mean less minerals in the diet and thereby reduce the impact on the environment while still remaining competitive. We have now brought this technology to aquaculture and supply the market with both straights as with full organic mineral premixes.

I see the company moving into supra-nutritional products that improve health of animals while at the same time reducing or eliminating much of the drug usage we see today. We have a strong focus in therapeutic nutrition and our technology portfolio includes organic acids, manufacture red in Germany pre- and probiotics, and extracts of essential oils now coming out of our research and development programmers in Spain . We have been successful in launching and customizing these technologies for aquaculture applications, ranging from vibriosis in Asian shrimp, to enteritis in Mediterranean sea bream or sea lice in salmon.

Are there other non-dietary products under development?
Feed quality can be augmented with mold inhibitors based on organic acids to detoxify raw materials by using a mycotoxin binder. This is a very important area for feed manufacturing, especially in drought years when corn quality for instance is poor and contamination is high.

We are also looking at preserving fat profiles for their nutrient values, using for example, protease enzymes to assist in getting more protein value out of the final feed. We are in partnership with Verenium to developing new heat-stable, phytaze products which will ultimately have applications for aqua feed industry.

How important are differences between markets when it comes to product development?
If we look back 21 years we were clearly focused on the poultry industry which was a very fast growing sector at the time. Ten years ago we increased production and our global footprint by building infrastructure in Asia, mostly through a distribution network supporting the growth of methionine sales coupled with our liquid application systems, which proved highly suitable in feedmills.

Today we are leveraging a deep understanding of nutrient absorption and gut health.. Good nutrition can reduce costs to farmers and reduce the amount of waste that is left for the environment to absorb.

Even with less quality feed now available we should be able to achieve more through sound diets.

Novus is committed to having a genuinely global reach. We connect with our customers at the local level, work with them in their own communities and understand their needs in a meaningful way. Novus customers have the unique experience of localized research and development, technical support, customer service and logistics. This commitment to working closely with our customers provides Novus with real-time, hands-on knowledge of current and future customer needs.

We work with our customers to improve their business operations through increased productivity and profitability. Novus’s Health through Nutrition programs support healthy, happy animals that are more productive and generate less waste, reducing their environmental impact. Additionally, Novus products protect the nutritional quality of feed and feed ingredients,  which are farmers’ largest operational investments and most important tools for ensuring livestock health.

And for the next five years, what can we expect from Novus?

We expect to continue to grow our existing markets and expand our footprint in these markets through new technologies and partnerships. We will grow through market relevancy, for example, Over the past 25 years, the salmon industry has achieved an increase in productivity from 15 to 20 percent while reducing nitrogen waste by four fold. Novus probiotics (live microorganisms which confer a health benefit) assist with the stability of pond cultures, thereby helping to maximize pond water carrying capacity and enhancing overall fish health. In this way, more fish are grown with less water, as the water is less toxic, and less overall waste results.

Novus is a participant in the farm-to-table nutrition continuum and because of this, we have a distinct responsibility to the communities we serve. Novus’s Vision is To Help Feed the World Affordable, Wholesome Food and Achieve a Higher Quality of Life. Our performance as a company and our Vision are not separate— each is connected inextricably with the other. In everything we do over the next five years and beyond you can expect to be able to connect our actions with our Vision.

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