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New meal deal

A Minnesota feed company has a new meal deal.

Midwest Ag Enterprises in Marshall is making a high-protein soybean meal to replace expensive fishmeal in livestock diets. NutriVance, introduced last spring, is designed for young pigs, young poultry, and fish, which need a high-protein, low-fiber diet.

The new soy protein concentrate adds more value to soybean meal and opens up new markets for Minnesota soybeans, especially in the aquaculture sector, says Harold Stanislawski, AURI project director.

Soybeans are an excellent protein source, but they also contain “anti-nutritional” components, such as fiber and complex sugars, which inhibit nutrient absorption in animals that have a single-chambered stomach. (Think gas!) That limits the amount of soybean meal that can be fed to young animals.

With help from AURI, Midwest Ag Enterprises developed a cost-competitive process to remove most of these indigestible elements, leaving a high-protein meal that is easier for baby animals to digest, says Jim Moline, founder and president of Midwest Ag Enterprises. Moline’s company makes specialty livestock feed ingredients for domestic and overseas markets.

NutriVance has about the same amount of protein as fishmeal with a real value in animal and aqua feed diets of approximately 20 percent less, Moline says. Fishmeal, which is made from fish trimmings and small ocean fish, such as anchovies and menhaden, is a dwindling resource, he says. Substituting renewable soy protein for fishmeal eases stress on wild fisheries. And because NutriVance is concentrated, “we can ship more protein in a smaller package. That’s important for export markets.”

Scaling up

Midwest Ag Enterprises began manufacturing NutriVance last April in partnership with American Natural Soy, Cherokee, Iowa. The joint venture operates a processing plant in Galva, Iowa.

The company starts with high-quality soybean meal from Minnesota Soybean Processors in Brewster, Minnesota. Using a proprietary water and enzymatic treatment, “we remove some of the indigestible parts,” Moline says. “Our process is quite complicated and perfecting it has been a challenge.” There are rival soy protein concentrates on the market, which use alcohol-based processing, Moline says, “but we feel they aren’t as good as ours.”

The company is now scaling up manufacturing and expects to produce about 2,000 tons of NutriVance per month by the end of 2016. “We’re streamlining production and building inventory.”

Feeding trials underway NutriVance

Meanwhile, AURI and the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council are sponsoring livestock feeding trials of NutriVance, supplementing earlier nutrition studies. These studies are essential for commercialization, Moline says. “People who formulate livestock diets need third party research” to validate new product claims.

“We’re seeing positive results on digestibility,” Moline says.

A recent study on weanling pigs at the University of Illinois, for example, found that NutriVance was just as easy for baby pigs to digest as diets containing less soybean meal and protein, AURI’s Stanislawski says. That means growers can feed piglets a higher level of soybean protein with no digestibility penalty.

Turkey feeding trials are scheduled to begin in 2016 at the University of Minnesota.

Aquaculture opportunities

AURI and the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council are sponsoring nutrition studies of NutriVance in farm-raised trout and shrimp. In addition, the U.S. Soybean Export Council is arranging aquaculture feeding trials in Latin America, which is a major player in global fish farming.

Aquaculture, the fastest-growing feed industry sector, “is a huge opportunity for NutriVance,” Moline says. The aqua feed industry, which accounts for half of annual fishmeal consumption, is working to increase the amount of vegetable protein in aquaculture feed — a market that is expected to reach $123 billion worldwide by 2019, according to AquaFeed Market.

Minnesota’s abundance of high-quality feed is one factor spurring the development of shrimp aquaculture in the state, says Michael Sparby, AURI senior project strategist. Minnesota has several small shrimp farms producing Pacific white shrimp indoors, including Four Seasons in Little Falls and Northern Tide in Elgin.

Ralco®, a privately-held animal feed company based in Marshall, Minnesota, plans to raise shrimp on a large scale. The company has licensed patented shrimp farming technology developed at Texas A & M University, and recently completed a shrimp research and pilot plant in Balaton, Minnesota.

Ralco’s research facility will be used to commercialize the new technology — an intensive shallow-water raceway system called a Tidal Basin. Ralco is developing a model shrimp farm that is projected to produce 8.5 million pounds of shimp annually.

Commercial production is expected to begin by 2017, says Mike Ziebell, general manager of trū Shrimp Systems, Ralco’s aquaculture brand. The company plans to build a hub-and-spoke network of processing plants and production barns — or Harbors , as the shrimp farms are called — much like the poultry industry uses.

Minnesota’s shrimp advantage

The United States imports over 1.5 billion pounds of shrimp. Currently, 80 percent. of the imports come from seacoast farms in Southeast Asia.

Why cultivate shrimp in landlocked Minnesota?

“The feed is here!” Ziebell says. Shrimp eat a complex diet including soybeans, wheat and fishmeal. “Our goal is to eliminate fishmeal from the feed and replace it with renewable, plant-based ingredients”, Ziebell says.

“People think of shrimp farming as a warm weather and coastal enterprise. But inland technology can be located anywhere.” Instead of moving the feed to the shrimp, “we’re moving the shrimp to the feed.

“Simliar to cattle, hogs, and poultry,” Ziebell says, “shrimp are another species that can add value to our abundant Minnesota commodities.”

AURI’s long game

When it comes to economic development, AURI plays a long game, says Michael Sparby, AURI senior project strategist.

NutriVance is a good example. The branded, high-protein soy concentrate grew out of nearly a decade of research and development, and could help foster a whole new livestock sector in Minnesota.

The effort began in the mid-2000s, as profit-strapped hog and poultry producers called for a lower-cost replacement for fishmeal in starter diets. A high-protein, low-fiber soybean product, called low-oligosaccharide soybean meal, looked like a good substitute — if an economical method for removing the fiber could be developed.

The first step was to find out how “low-O” soybean meal performed in livestock diets. AURI and the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council sponsored nutrition trials at the University of Minnesota, comparing low-oligosaccharide soybean meal with fishmeal in nursery pig and turkey diets. The research found that low-O soybean meal boosted feed efficiency in young animals.

“We put on industry forums where we presented this research to people in the feed business,” Sparby says. Jim Moline, president of Midwest Ag Enterprises in Marshall, Minnesota, attended one of the forums and thought low-O soybean meal would be a good fit for his company, which manufactures specialty feed ingredients.

AURI scientists worked with Moline’s company to develop a cost-competitive method for manufacturing low-O soybean meal. Last spring, Midwest Ag Enterprises began commercial production of NutriVance soy protein concentrate.

Now, AURI is helping the company test a new use for NutriVance — farmed fish and shrimp diets. This work, in turn, could propel Minnesota’s emerging aquaculture sector, Sparby says.

NutriVance could be “a perfect marriage with aquaculture opportunities right here at home,” Moline says. Today, “we send our feed products to Asia, and they send their fish back here. I think we could be a significant partner for Minnesota’s new aquaculture farmers.”

AURI and  NutriVance

Idea to reality:
Midwest Ag Enterprises wanted to develop a high-protein soybean meal to replace expensive fishmeal in livestock diets.

AURI’s role:
AURI scientists worked with Midwest Ag Enterprises to develop a cost-competitive method for manufacturing low-O soybean meal, and along with the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council is sponsoring feeding trials.

Production of NutriVance is scaling up and they expect to product about 2,000 tons of the feed per month by the end of 2016.