Gerritjan van der Ven is the new President of FEFANA. All About Feed asked him about FEFANA’s vision on feeding animals and thus humans in the coming years and what the global feed sector needs to do to unfold and exploit its full potential.
This year, the EU Association of Specialty Feed Ingredients and their Mixtures (FEFANA) launched its vision of the feed industry in 2030. What needs to be changed in terms of feed safety and are we on track to make the feed chain more sustainable?
Gerritjan van der Ven, was elected FEFANA President in June 2016 and is a member of FEFANA’s Board of Directors since 2013. He was born in the Netherlands where he studied process-engineering at Twente University. Over 15 years ago he relocated to Italy to start his career in the feed additive manufacturing business and is currently site director at Balchem’s choline chloride facility in Northern Italy.
What are the main goals of the animal feed industry’s 2030 vision?
Gerritjan van der Ven: “The Animal Feed Industry’s Vision 2030 is actually a combined vision of the entire feed industry, developed with FEFAC as the trade association representing the European compound feed manufacturers and FEFANA who represents the specialty feed ingredients industry for nutritional and functional components to enhance the value of feed and optimise animal nutrition beyond basic nutrition. On one hand, our vision outlines the challenges faced by the livestock sector, animal nutrition and technology to offer solutions to meet society’s expectations of achieving safe and sustainable feed and food supply. While, on the other hand, it summarises what the feed industry offers today and what it aims to contribute to the shaping of the future. The vision is not linked to particular quantitative goals such as emission targets. However, it addresses the potential of the feed sector to make a significant contribution to meeting such targets.”
Why 2030? Is 2020 not feasible?
“Indeed, your question is referring to the pressing need for the feed sector to further unfold and exploit its full potential in view of a rapidly developing world population. We have to be able to produce more safe feed and food using less non-renewable resources. Overcoming hurdles, such as regulatory constraints that slow down the introduction of innovations into the market is a key concern to us. While we are highly ambitious we also recognise that not all changes will come overnight. We find 2030 a realistic timeframe for a long-term vision, while this should not hold us back from working already today on solutions and modernisation of the legal framework that regulates the food chain.”
Sustainable feed comprises of different fields including environmental, economic and social aspects. Photo: Koos Groenewold
What do you think is needed to make the animal feed sector more sustainable?
“To summarise my answer in one word: Innovation! The public sector and our industry invests huge amounts of money into research and development. While there is already a high degree of collaboration we have got to be better in bundling our resources. Furthermore, there are many companies in our industry, many of which are small and medium size businesses, that must be able to rely on a fast and efficient regulatory approval process for innovative products and technologies as well as on legal protection of their intellectual property. Finally, we have got to take a fresh look at how our industry is regulated compared to other industries and compared to other regions of the world that seem to offer a better regulatory playing field to move innovations faster to the market.”
What kind of problems do you expect in the future (e.g. increased mycotoxin risk or lack of certain raw materials?)
“In fact, your question has just outlined some of the major global challenges that are connected to the fast-growing world population, increasing urbanisation, shrinking resources and climate change. Agriculture, food and connected feed production are becoming increasingly constrained by these factors. Besides those, we have got to pay attention to additional challenges in terms of political and regulatory hurdles that constrain and impede production and trade in feed and feed components. The role of the Specialty Feed Ingredients industry is to facilitate alternative feeding practices required by this new scenario and to ensure animal health and well-being.”
What is the role of feed producers and feed additive (chemical) companies in the mission to make animal feed more sustainable?
“Sustainable feed comprises of different fields including environmental, economic and social aspects. Through animal nutrition we contribute to the preservation of gut health through nutrition and feed additives, which in turn helps to reduce the need for antibiotics. Appropriate feed formulation and use of feed additives increase the use of co-products from other industries and former foodstuffs in animal feed - circular economy being the buzz word of today! New solutions to developing precision feeding techniques optimise livestock economic and environmental performance at farm level. Last but not least, let me point out that adapting feeding strategies to improve animal well-being, food quality and mitigation of environmental impacts is connected directly to cost-effective feed and services that support farmers’ revenues.”
"We have got to be better in bundling our resources."
Pressure on feed ingredients (such as soy and fish meal) is high. Do you think we waited too long before looking for suitable (protein) alternatives / invest in locally produced protein crops?
“Research on new sources of protein for food and feed is already on-going for quite some time. The EU has embarked, in particular, on looking at former foodstuffs and insects as additional protein sources that the feed sector can exploit. Our sector supports these developments while we are requesting caution with regard to not compromising the established high level of feed safety. Local production of protein crops is certainly a supporting factor for the feed business. Related investments should take into account local farming conditions that favour the growth and sustainable production of such crops.”
Do you think the feed chain collaborates enough on important issues such as sustainability and feed safety?
“We are proud of having achieved a great level of collaboration, between public and private actors and within the feed chain businesses. This is demonstrated by a constant decline in feed-related incidences and rapid alerts during the past decade. However, this will not secure success with regard to our ambitious Animal Feed Industry’s Vision 2030. We do need stronger outreach and collaboration starting with public authorities to invest more in animal nutrition research and streamline the legal framework. The creation of a sustainable partnership between authorities and all feed, livestock and food chain stakeholders to shape the livestock sector of the future is key!”
Often, people talk about new feeding strategies in the future. What is FEFANA’s opinion on this?
“I will dare to attempt to define the concept from a FEFANA/specialty feed ingredients perspective in one sentence: New feeding strategies comprise the application of innovative feed ingredients and their mixtures providing enhanced functionalities to optimise animal nutrition, health and welfare and to reduce environmental impacts and costs of livestock production.”
Do you (FEFANA) think that the registration for new feed additives to the market is strict enough?
“The EU has one of the strictest authorisation regimes for feed additives in the world! As an industry, we stand fully behind the rigorous risk assessment to ensure the safety of feed additives before they are allowed to enter the market. Our concerns are related to what we see as over-regulation of certain aspects of the current pre-market approval system which lead to a slow feed additive authorisation process, stark difference in safety assessment based on current ingredient classifications, and, last but not least, lack of involvement by the industry to reduce red tape through co- and self-regulation. The feed industry is a highly professional customer base and we are advocating for regulatory change to recognise that.”
What do you expect from precision farming in the future?
“In a nutshell: Precision farming comprises a set of key technologies, including also animal nutrition, that will drive agriculture to become more efficient and effective in order to ensure the safe and sustainable supply of food for a rapidly growing world population. The Animal Feed Industry’s Vision 2030 will catalyse precision farming from the animal nutrition perspective to meet the overall goal. Modernisation of the feed regulations will be required to achieve the goals from precision farming.”