When seeking ways of expanding its portfolio of export products seven years ago, Hankkija launched a research project subsidised by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes). The company was keen to find new high volume domestic raw material sources and ingredients promising positive impacts on animal feed.
"The research came to focus on natural biochemicals in conifer trees that protect them from pathogens such as bacteria, parasites and fungi. We also knew that resin had been used in traditional human and animal healing for its antimicrobial effect," says Juhani Vuorenmaa, Director R&D, Hankkija Ltd.
"This insight led to testing the effects of wood-based biochemicals on the intestinal microbes of animals under laboratory conditions in order to reduce levels of pathogenic Gram+ bacteria, such as Clostridium perfringens and Stafylococcus aureus" Vuorenmaa continues.
Gram+ bacteria cause intestinal infections and diarrhoea in animals, reducing nutrient uptake and growth with attendant substantial economic losses for farmers. Although this problem was formerly tackled by adding antibiotics to animal feed, this practice is now banned in the European Union due to fears that excessive use of antibiotics may accelerate the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains.
Use of antibiotics in livestock rearing is also decreasing elsewhere.
"The tests revealed that resin acids had the desired effects, and we realised that industrially extracted tall oil was the best source of this material."
"Laboratory tests on resin acids were followed by animal trials, with the initial focus on poultry feeding. The results were consistently favourable, and in May of this year we introduced a poultry application of the Finnish Progres* feed to our distributors in Europe and a selected customer segment for field-testing. The international launch will take place in November at the EuroTier 2014 fair in Hannover, Germany."
"Trials will soon begin with a view to exploring the benefits of resin acids in other animals such as piglets, calves and fish, and steps will be taken next year to boost sales in North and South America and in the Far East."
Vuorenmaa reports that Progres® has generated unprecedented interest among feed manufacturers on hearing news of the product.
"They have included Progres* in their testing programmes and witnessed favourable outcomes. Even conservative estimates suggest that we now have a product promising a major impact on our turnover in coming years."