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Three areas to watch in the enzyme industry

The commercial success of phytase enzymes and the increased awareness of the potential for certain enzymes to reduce feed cost in light of the recent price hikes mostly in cereals, have increased interest to further develop the enzyme business.

The commercial success of phytase enzymes and the increased awareness of the potential for certain enzymes to reduce feed cost in light of the recent price hikes mostly in cereals, have increased interest to further develop the enzymes business. 

There are three areas of potential development where we should reasonably expect the enzyme industry to focus their attention until the end of this decade.

1.    Better enzymes

Already, there are phytases that work double as hard as similar products a decade ago. We should expect, then, manufacturers to continue improve their existing enzymes in terms of efficiency, handling characteristics, and profitability. Existing xylanases (for wheat) and beta-glucanses (for barley) currently increase metabolizable energy by about 50 kcal/kg feed on average; but going up to 150 kcal/kg has been achieved in several experiments. 

It would not be unreasonable to expect similar products to become commercially available sooner than later. The big challenge is with proteases, where every small improvement in efficiency will bring substantial results as it will negate or even reduce the addition of expensive proteins, including crystalline amino acids, such as tryptophan that reached 30 euros per kg, not many months ago!

2. New enzymes

There is a group of enzymes that are currently available, but their performance is such that they have not gained the importance of the enzymes mentioned above. For example, amylases (starch), pectinases and cellulases (both effective against components of the crude fiber fraction in feedstuffs). We certainly need new strains or types of such enzymes that will confer marked improvements in digestibility. 

In addition, there are other ‚Äúnutrients,‚ÄĚ or chemical components in ingredients that are currently outside the scope of enzyme manufacturers. These include lipids and lignin. Lipids are not fully digested by young animals, whereas pigs and poultry do not digest lignin at all. And, whereas in the first case we are considering perhaps a small fraction of the animal feed industry, being able to feed high-lignin feedstuffs (straw of course would be the most extreme example) to pigs and poultry would certainly revolutionize monogastric animal nutrition.

3. Novel enzymes

So far, we have considered feed components that can be digested by exogenous enzymes to the benefit of the animal in terms of enhanced nutrient digestibility. There is a growing interest in developing enzymes that will work in neutralizing certain anti-nutritional factors in ingredients that can be even considered toxic. For example, certain mycotoxins can deactivated by enzymes, but also, why not one or more enzymes that will neutralize all or a big part of the numerous anti-nutritional factors in soybeans? The best case scenario feeding pigs and poultry raw full-fat soybeans plus an enzymatic product will allow the animals to fully use the proteins in soybeans. 

Currently, we need to thermally process all soybean products to deactivate these anti-nutritional factors; an expensive process that also tends to reduce the biological value of proteins when soybeans are over-cooked. And, why stop with soybeans? Why not invest in developing enzymatic products that will allow the full use of other protein sources, such as peas, faba beans and rapeseed, reducing the need for many countries to rely on imported soybean meal?

There is plenty of room for the enzyme business to grow, and given the current impetus, we should expect enzymes (better, new, and novel ones) to feature in most future commercial diets for pigs and poultry.

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