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Finding sustainable solutions for compelling issues

From fundamental research with renowned universities to direct testing with customers. As a Project Manager Innovation for Perstorp Animal Nutrition, Dr Stefan Vaessen is involved in the ‘inspiring process’ of creating innovative solutions for animal health and performance.

It is the high pace and the Swedish care for quality that made the former post-doctoral fellow join the expanding Animal Nutrition Business Area. ‘Investigating and introducing a whole new molecule the way Perstorp did with Valerins… that’s just unique in the organic acid industry.’

How can I improve feed conversion? Does this in vitro organoid of a pig’s gut mirror reality? Can sustainable alternatives reduce the use of antibiotics? Dr Vaessen has always been fascinated by animal physiology and health. He had been conducting research for Perstorp for 2 years at the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, when he was asked to join the Perstorp team to continue his research and develop new products. “I have always wanted to be involved in the Agri-Food-Business.”

By knowing how the animal body and our molecules work, Perstorp Animal Nutrition wants to improve animal health. Photo: Shutterstock
By knowing how the animal body and our molecules work, Perstorp Animal Nutrition wants to improve animal health. Photo: Shutterstock

Making a difference

Joining Perstorp was just the challenge the passionate biologist needed. “As a result-oriented person, I like working in a high paced environment, being able to apply my knowledge and see the outcome – and start improving again. Since Perstorp is a globally active company with a chemical background, I feel I can actually make a difference – our innovation department has over 80 employees. Working with organoids – a miniature in vitro organ -- allows us to test efficiently on animal tissue without using real animals.”

University of Arkansas, Utrecht University, Ghent University… As a Project Manager Innovation, Dr Vaessen now travels the world to partner up with the best research institutes. What are new techniques? Innovative developments? Dr Vaessen is always on the lookout for interesting ideas to improve business. “Perstorp Animal Nutrition has a very thorough Swedish approach – it is not just about offering new products. It is about finding sustainable long-term solutions.”

New molecule

By knowing how the animal body and our molecules work, Perstorp Animal Nutrition wants to improve animal health, explains Vaessen. “In 2017 Perstorp introduced a new molecule: Valerins, glycerol esters of valeric acid to be used in feed and to improve animal performance under challenged conditions. A really ground-breaking invention in the feed industry, since the last introduction of a new organic acid molecule to be used in feed was decades ago.”

Healthy and safe feed are important for healthy and safe food, explains Dr Vaessen: “Good molecules can reduce the use of antibiotics, which is important to prevent antibiotic resistance – one of the greatest threats to human health of this time. If we can keep animals healthy, they perform better – a necessity as the world population increases in a dazzling pace. Perstorp works on finding sustainable solutions for compelling issues.”

Expansion of Perstorp Animal Nutrition

As Perstorp Animal Nutrition is expanding – investments of more than 14 million in the business area were greenlit last year – new colleagues are recruited. “A very exciting process. Our team is already very strong and competent, and by finding people who complement us, there will be even more room to develop individual strengths. A great way to build joint knowledge.”

What is Perstorp like as an employer? Dr Vaessen: “Just like the Dutch, the Swedish are quite rational and open to new ideas, it is not a very hierarchic company. I often work from my home office – just the flexibility I need as a father of 3. For me, it was exactly what I was looking for: a good work-life balance and a job where I can make a difference with passionate colleagues.”