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Thomas Kaufmann, an expert on sustainable animal husbandry, is increasingly working in Asia
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Evonik Industries is expanding its production of feed additives all over the world. In an interview, Dr. Thomas Kaufmann, a sustainability expert in this segment of Evonik, explains why amino acids for animal feed are not only good business but also the key that will enable us to sustainably feed the world’s growing Population.
A lot. Evonik produces the four most important amino acids for animal feed: methionine, lysine, threonine, and tryptophan. Neither animals nor people can survive without these naturally occurring components of proteins. As a precisely dosed animal feed additive, amino acids ensure that pigs, chickens, and other livestock metabolize their feed more efficiently. That’s good for the animals, and it also enables us to produce meat, fish, eggs, and milk more sustainably from the ecological, economic, and social perspectives.
If the distribution of the amino acids in the feed is not optimal, the animals excrete some of the feed without digesting it. As a result, the yield of precious agricultural land is wasted. If we increase the proportion of protein in animal feed by adding soy or fish meal, it places an additional burden on fields or fish stocks. The targeted addition of amino acids can prevent that and help us safeguard the food supply of the growing global population. Because protein-rich feed is becoming more expensive, we are reducing the costs for farmers as well, whether they are keeping ten animals or 10,000. But above all, we are decreasing climate-threatening emissions, water consumption, the amount of agricultural land that is needed, and the acidification and fertilization of soil and bodies of water.
The worldwide production of methionine alone releases about 20 million hectares of agricultural land, or 1.5 percent of the worldwide total, for other uses. Independent studies have also shown that in hog production, for example, the optimal use of amino acids in animal feed can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent, water consumption by 20 percent, and nitrogen excretion by almost 40 percent. These figures have also thoroughly convinced organizations such as WWF and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Both of these organizations believe that the targeted use of amino acids as feed additives is a key to more sustainable animal husbandry.
Absolutely. Nonetheless, the targeted use of amino acids still depends on the market prices of protein-rich animal feed such as soy and fish meal. These prices are growing and thus making our solution more attractive. Feed producers are using software that incorporates the current prices in their recipes. But as environmental considerations gain in importance, and the more strongly governments regulate factors that affect the environment, the more our amino acids can exploit their advantages. That’s why we have developed a tool of our own: AMINOFootprint® searches for the optimal recipe for our customers, using environmental indicators, among other things.
This is where the population is growing rapidly and a middle class with high purchasing power is growing even faster. Eating habits are changing here, and so is people’s awareness of the need for sustainability. Both of these factors mean that the agricultural sector in Asia is facing huge challenges. From our production location in Singapore, we are delivering our response to these challenges to every corner of Asia. But we are also expanding our amino acid production facilities all over the world. After all, the market for animal feed is global—and that makes it all the more challenging to feed nine billion people sustainably in the future.