Dinnissen Process Technology, feed miller Vitelia Voeders, IT engineering company Imtech Food & Feed and Den Bosch Agriculture College in the Netherlands last year started a feasibility study on the development of a Feed Design Living Lab (FDL).
Aim of the Living Lab is to establish a self-supporting application (pilot plant scale) in which entrepreneurs, knowledge institutes, teachers and students by means of knowledge transfer can create new products and technologies for animal feeds.
Market research carried out by HAS Knowledge Transfer on behalf of the initiators showed that companies in the feed industry value innovation within the sector as just sufficient.
Although innovation is a major target within companies it is mostly based on traditional starting points. Innovation is primarily focused on costs.
Other important innovation themes in the (Dutch) feed industry are:
- Quantifying of sustainable feed/husbandry (CO2 emissions, energy use in feed production and at animal level);
- Development of new feeds with high nutritional value and digestibility in relation to lower CO2-emissions and manure production;
- The effect of technological choices on animal performance;
- Cradle to cradle: more attention for value adding to by-product and raw material flows;
- Search for alternative raw materials (e.g. by-products from horticulture crops, such as carrots, tomatoes and bell pepper pulp), and
- The use of health improving ingredients such as antioxidants, β-carotenoids, probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids.
The companies asked in the feasibility study said they need (independent) R&D facilities and education options to further develop innovations.
Since 95% of the respondents said they will support the aims of the FDL there is sufficient backing for the establishment of a Feed Design Living Lab. This also underlines the justification of the cooperative efforts of the companies mentioned.
Question now is how the just-sufficient mark on innovation can be changed into an excellent mark. To achieve this, companies in the feed industry need to change and become aware of the necessity of long-term and specific innovations.
Although companies agree on this necessity they remain focused on ad-hoc and costs driven innovations. Co-innovation within the sector – a prerequisite – to start a FDL will be the next challenge.
Together with a few stakeholders the initial parties are investigating how their ambitions can be established in practice.
At this moment parties are working on a business plan for further development of the FDL. From the end of this year on a pilot will be started in which stakeholders cooperate to manufacture new animal feeds using existing equipments.
Students from Den Bosch Agriculture College will work on innovative feeds using the most modern technology. Results will be presented at the re-opening of the Vitelia feed mill in IJsselstein in spring 2010.