By Emily McDaid
Devenish Nutrition is a Belfast-based company providing nutritional solutions for animal and human health. With 28 PhD-level scientists working alongside experts in veterinary science and nutrition, Devenish creates nutrition regimes for poultry, pig, ruminant and companion species.
Originally founded in 1952, Devenish has built a £160m turnover business with 160 staff across N. Ireland and another 240 staff globally (mainly based in England and the US).
Devenish exports products to 30 countries. In the past three years, the company has grown 300 per cent in international markets (those outside the UK, Ireland and US).
We spoke to Devenish’s UK CEO, Patrick McLaughlin, about how their scientists innovate feed regimes.
Patrick said: “We look at regimes that optimise the animal’s performance; specifically, to produce meat, milk and eggs as healthily and efficiently as possible. For example, in the case of poultry, a bird is raised until it weighs 2 kilos. Our feed regimes match the birds’ exact nutritional requirements they need for each phase of life."
TechWatch: What’s the end goal?
Patrick: “The bird is healthier and the final output is a higher quality product.”
How do you match the nutritional requirements exactly?
Patrick: “The genetics companies provide guidelines as to the nutrient requirements of their animals, however, in commercial reality there are challenges that impact upon performance. We use the expertise of our nutritionists working alongside customers to develop feeding regimes.”
“Most of the efficiency improvements come from additives and diet changes that are developed in their research facilities.”
“Trials can be conducted, to scientifically-publishable standards, to ensure what is seen in these facilities is replicable on their customers’ farms.”
Who is Devenish’s average customer?
“We supply a wide range of customers, from multi-national food organisations right down to local farmers,” said Patrick. “The mix of customers varies across the different species, so the product and service offering will alter depending on the customer matrix. The end goal is always the same - to improve performance and profitability for our customers.”
Can you tell me about any specific R&D innovations you’re developing?
Patrick said, “In June 2016 we released a new range of chicken products in partnership with Moy Park, available through Waitrose, that are naturally enriched with Omega 3. This provides a way for people to get Omega 3 without having to eat oily fish, in a form considerably more bioavailable than capsules.”
How long has this been in development?
“It’s taken 10 years. It came about because only about 25% of humans get the level of Omega 3 that’s recommended in their diet, and it’s an important nutrient for heart health, brain health and vision function,” said Patrick.
As scientists learn more about Omega 3, it’s increasingly evident how important this nutrient is. I wonder if Devenish has any other innovative food or feed products in the pipeline.
Patrick said, “As well as looking how this technology might be utilised across other species, we are also looking at other forms of bio-enrichment that improve the health of both the animals and humans who consume them, so watch this space for our next innovation.”
He continued: “We also recently launched a product for piglets called Nurturaid™ which is aimed at supporting the development of the piglet’s digestive system to increase nutrient absorption and support efficient growth of the animal. Having an effective digestive system also helps the animals fight disease, vital in a world moving towards the reduction of antibiotics fed to animals.”
Devenish has invested significantly in research and development, resulting in the business growing, on average, 20 per cent year on year.