Programme Themes

Programme Themes

Key themes:

  • Regional protein production
  • Do additional amino acids in diets add up?
  • Insect protein promise
  • Green and blue proteins
  • Single cell technology
  • Investor perspective on alternative proteins

For a more in-depth look at the Feed Protein Vision themes, please take a look below:

 

Regional protein production

Predictable access to a strategic supply of proteins to meet demand and to feed farm animals is crucial for the competitiveness and resilience of the EU feed and livestock sector, particularly in a resource-constrained world.

Partly as a way to tackle protein deficiency, but also to address the trend for non-GMO meat and milk in certain markets, there is a greater focus on regionally produced protein raw materials in Europe. Local soy cultivation is gathering pace; in tandem crushing facilities are being modified to enable processing of such beans. There are also projects underway to boost the supply of other oilseeds along with protein crops such as lupins, peas and beans.

However, EU feed industry insiders stress that demand for regional raw materials needs proper guidance to avoid uncontrollable processes, supply bottlenecks, and cost hikes.

The sector also calls on regulators to re-evaluate policy around biofuels, warning any move to phase-out EU arable crops as feedstock would have a detrimental effect on the EU feed sector’s capacity to use locally produced proteins.

Do additional amino acids in diets add up?

Researchers argue that supplementation of low protein diets with amino acids could enable more sustainable animal production systems. They say partial substitution of soybean meal by amino acids allows a reduction in EU reliance on soybean imports from South America, and elsewhere. The thinking is that economies of scale will kick in on the cost front.

Apart from contributing to protein rich feedstuffs substitution, amino acids are said to also positively influence animal metabolism and reduce the nitrogen upload into the environment. However, the successful implementation of reduced crude protein diets in this way relies on a deep knowledge of amino acid requirements.

Insect protein promise

Insects look promising but need to show a path to scale. It is argued that more investment is needed to ensure that scale is achieved. Analysts also call out the lower production volumes as one of the main bottlenecks in the insect meal industry.

In addition, regulatory barriers are holding back the sector. The EU Commission officially authorised insect proteins as feed for fish feed in July 2017. However, many insect protein suppliers do not think that the legislation goes far enough, and they are pressing to allow insect meal be used in the pork and poultry industries.

EU insect companies also want to expand the range of agri-food chain sourced substrates they can use to rear insects citing economic and environmental benefits from doing so, but there are data gaps around the risks linked to certain substrates.

Green and blue proteins

Researchers are weighing up the benefits of seaweed, mussels, grass, and microalgae as novel protein sources as a way of reducing dependence on meal from soy and fishmeal imports.

While likely to remain niche in terms of volumes, there are extensive projects underway to tackle the extraction and production cost challenges linked to protein innovation based on such sources.

Single cell technology

Single-cell proteins are dried microbial cells or total protein extracted from pure or mixed cultures of microbes such as algae, yeasts, fungi or bacteria. They can be used as a substitute for soymeal or fishmeal in feeds.

Bacterial protein meals, which use a number of substrates such as dry, liquid and methane carbon dioxide, are showing the most potential commercially currently. Investors rate such sources as they require limited water inputs and no agricultural land use. They also do not compete with the human food chain. Such meals are approved for use in feed in the EU, and a push is on to get authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Investor perspective on alternative proteins

The past few years, marked with scarcity of fishmeal and high prices, have seen many projects for alternative fish feed and monogastric targeted meals started worldwide. Many are in the pre-profit start-up phase.

Investors have warned, though, that the next few years will be decisive for the new kids on the block – the alternative protein producers – as high fishmeal prices soften due to the absence of El Niño.

Venture capitalists argue that only a limited number of substitute proteins will achieve scale, and that the others will need to find niche markets for their products where pure price competition is avoided or they will need to have investors with a long term view, as profitability may take longer to achieve than previously expected.