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Pharmaceutical technology and fractioned insects for animal feed

Published: 22-03-2016, | Member: Zetadec

To optimize the composition of animal feed, the industry needs extensive knowledge about the interaction between raw materials and processing. This expertise is already present at Zedatec, a company that combines consultancy with innovation. Its products include a spherical feed pellet for the controlled release of nutrients in the digestive tracts of cows, chickens and pigs.

Working from its own R&D lab and test facilities, Zedatec innovates in collaboration with the animal feed industry. A recent development is the ‘spheronizer’. “This technology originated in the pharmaceutical industry. We’ve adapted it for use in the animal feed industry,” says Menno Thomas, the company’s owner and senior scientist. He explains how they’ve adapted the technology. “Traditionally, feed pellets are homogeneous. They’re made by grinding, mixing and pressing raw materials into pellets. We consulted with nutritionists and then used pharmaceutical technology to create a layered pellet. Depending on the animal’s needs, the protein and starch components are layered in a particular order, so they’re released at the right time and place in the digestive tract of the animal that ate the pellet.”

As a consultancy specialized in powder and granulate-processing optimization, Zetadec’s core activities are designing test set-ups, making statistical analyses and developing computer models. It uses the knowledge it generates to optimize products and production processes. This sometimes leads to entirely new products like their feed pellet. Zetadec’s customer base is global and consists of animal feed manufacturers, suppliers of human nutritional products and biomass processing companies.

Big data
The company’s main focus is on “optimizing processes or improve a product’s nutritional value,” Thomas explains. “Where can we find room for improvement and how can we achieve it? When dealing with processes, we focus on the temperature, performance, time and humidity. When we’re looking at optimizing a product’s nutritional value, we zoom in on the denaturation of proteins and the degree of cook of starches.”

Zetadec aims to make use of the enormous amounts of data it collects. “We’re collaborating with several business partners to use this data to build a decision support model that will enable equipment manufacturers, animal feed companies and software developers to determine which conditions need to be met to produce optimum quality,” Thomas says. “We’ve just completed the first test phase and the results look promising. The second test phase is about to start.”

Zetadec is also working on projects involving the fractionation of complex organic products. Technology that can be used to incorporate insects into animal feed is one example, Thomas says. “We’re working on separating the individual components that insects are made up of, at industrial scale, so separating the various proteins, fats and chitins. We are studying these components’ functional properties and how they can be used in animal feed.”

Zetadec is also fractioning side streams from the food industry and exploring technologies that can upcycle liquid side streams from the dairy industry into new raw materials for use in animal feed.

“A lot of our knowledge and expertise is widely applicable. Initially, our focus was mainly on the feed industry, but these days we’re increasingly working for other customers too,” Thomas says. “Sometimes, one thing just leads to another. For instance, we were working on optimizing a process for the production of liquid fertilizers and that led to us testing new fertilizers. I know we’ll be expanding our activities more in the years to come. Although animal feed will remain our core business, we’ll increasingly put the knowledge and technology from that domain to good use to solve other processing challenges.”