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Nestlé R&D Accelerator to drive dairy, plant protein innovation

Nestlé has inaugurated a new R&D Accelerator to drive innovation and speed to market of sustainable dairy products as well as plant-based dairy alternatives.

Located at Nestlé's research and development (R&D) center in Konolfingen, Switzerland, the R&D Accelerator provides a world-class platform for startups, students and scientists to leverage Nestlé's unique dairy and plant protein expertise to quickly bring products from ideation to commercialization.

Nestlé Konolfingen is the company's largest R&D center for dairy products and plant-based dairy alternatives and is an integral part of the Swiss innovation ecosystem. The R&D center develops new product concepts for Nestlé’s dairy and infant nutrition businesses before they are introduced to consumers around the world.

Speaking at the inauguration, Nestlé chief executive officer Mark Schneider said, "Innovation in milk products and plant-based dairy alternatives is core to Nestlé's portfolio strategy as well as our sustainability agenda. As a company, we have set ambitious climate goals. This is part of our promise to develop products that are good for you and good for the planet."

The R&D Accelerator in Konolfingen features a fully equipped test kitchen and a co-working office space. Internal, external and mixed teams will leverage Nestlé's capabilities to bring novel ideas from concept to test shop in only six months. They will have access to Nestlé expertise and key equipment such as small- to medium-scale production equipment to facilitate the rapid upscaling of products for a test launch in a retail environment.

"Our goal is to provide startups, students and Nestlé scientists with key resources to quickly explore new ideas through a six-month test and learn approach. By tapping into our expertise in food science, food safety, regulatory, manufacturing processes and packaging, they can rapidly upscale and test new products in real market conditions,” said Thomas Hauser, head of global product and technology development at Nestlé.

The R&D Accelerator in Konolfingen is part of Nestlé's global R&D Accelerator initiative, which was first launched at Nestlé Research in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Intervention disinfectants approved for use against ASFv

ALesik/iStock/Thinkstock swine barn and feed bin on cloudy day_ALesik_iStock_Thinkstock-455175595.jpg

Virox Technologies announced that its Intervention Farm Disinfectant-Cleaner Concentrate has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use against African Swine Fever virus (ASFv).

Virox said its goal is to ensure that customers are protected against the threat of emerging disease outbreaks, and the addition of the ASFv claim provides confidence that Intervention will be highly effective in the event of an outbreak in North America.

José Ramirez, lead science advisor at Virox Animal Health, said, “Even the small number of formulated products that have demonstrated efficacy against the virus through direct data are difficult to handle and suffer from less-than ideal occupational safety and environmental profiles.”

When used as directed, Intervention is non-toxic, non-irritating and readily biodegradable. In addition, its strong cleaning capabilities, ease of application and superior surface coverage make it an excellent choice for everyday use. In the case of ASFv, Intervention concentrate should be applied for a contact time of ten minutes at a 1:64 dilution, Virox said.

Virox Technologies has been formulating disinfectants against pathogens for more than 20 years. As the creators of the Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide (AHP) technology behind Intervention, the company is committed to providing safer, more sustainable solutions to support a wide range of industries in building robust infection prevention programs.

GEAPS postpones Exchange 2021 until August


The Grain Elevator & Processing Society (GEAPS) board of directors has postponed GEAPS Exchange 2021 due to continuing concerns about COVID-19 and the upcoming flu season. Originally scheduled for February 2021, the event will now take place Aug. 6-9, 2021, at the Columbus, Ohio, Convention Center. Registration opens in May.

While it's disappointing to have to postpone the conference, GEAPS president Jeff Jones, MKC, noted the importance of the show to the industry.

“Throughout the pandemic, agriculture has been deemed essential. Our farmers continue to produce commodities, and we expect a heavy harvest in areas this fall,” Jones said. “Our member facilities are running. Our operators need equipment. They need training to make sure they are following best practices for safety and efficiency. [the GEAPS] Exchange is a crucial tool for our industry. Hopefully, with the new dates, we can resume our normal operations.”

Currently, the city of Columbus is not allowing gatherings of more than 300 people. GEAPS executive director Steve Records said the conference will be held only when it is safe to do so.

“Safety is the number-one priority for our members, attendees, exhibitors, partners and staff,” Records said. “We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely. We believe the extra six months will help ensure a safe and well-attended event.”

GEAPS is an international professional association of grain handling and processing professionals. GEAPS addresses the industry’s critical grain handling, storage and processing operations needs by providing networking, professional development programs and access to a global marketplace of industry suppliers. Its global network includes more than 2,500 individual members from about 1,050 companies.

Preformed antibodies help immunize calves against scour pathogens

Digital Vision dairy cow and calf

Independent researchers with Research, Technology, Innovation LLC recently measured colostrum from scours-vaccinated cows for general antibody levels needed to achieve successful passive transfer, plus for specific antibody levels needed to maximize immunity against scour-causing pathogens, according to an announcement from ImmuCell.

In samples meeting the industry standard for general mass of antibody (50 g per liter of antibody, also referred to as immunoglobulins), results showed that only 1% of cows had high concentrations of specific coronavirus antibodies, 3% were high in rotavirus antibodies and 7% provided colostrum that was high in Escherichia coli antibodies, ImmuCell said, pointing to results from a white paper prepared by the researchers.

“To achieve successful passive transfer, newborn calves need a high level of general antibodies, but that’s often not enough to prevent scours,” ImmuCell vice president of sales and marketing Bobbi Brockmann said. “Calves also need elevated levels of specific antibodies to maximize immunity against scour-causing pathogens.

"Traditionally, farmers have relied on pre-calving scour vaccines to increase antibody levels in colostrum to protect against common scour-causing pathogens. These vaccines require the already immunosuppressed pregnant cow to mount an immune response and then transfer those specific antibodies into colostrum. Unfortunately, a vaccine response rate is inherently variable, and protocol drift increases that variability, creating an even bigger gap between what farmers pay for and the calf protection they actually get,” Brockmann added.

The study analyzed 97 single-cow colostrum samples taken from 10 well-vaccinated herds (8-10 samples per herd) comprised of farms in California, Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas, ImmuCell said. Each herd had been using a dam-level vaccination program according to label recommendations for more than three years.

Researchers collected first-milk colostrum post-calving from only multiparous cows and then used Bethyl Laboratories assays to measure general antibody mass, virus neutralization assays to quantify specific antibody titers against coronavirus and rotavirus and a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved titer assay to determine specific E. coli antibody levels.

The Figure shows each cow’s colostrum relative to mass of antibody and titer level against coronavirus, rotavirus and E. coli, with the red lines distinguishing the quadrants. According to the results, almost half of the cows sampled provided colostrum that fell in all three “low : low” quadrants, indicating that the colostrum was low in general mass of antibody and specificity against coronavirus, rotavirus and E. coli pathogens.

The results also showed that an extremely low number of cows provided colostrum in the “high : high” quadrant, with only 1% for coronavirus, 3% for rotavirus and 7% for E. coli antibody.

“Vaccination is simply the act of administering a vaccine. These numbers confirm that immunization is not a guaranteed outcome with vaccination, and calves are left unprotected against scour-causing pathogens,” Brockmann said. “Despite increased adoption of pre-calving scour vaccines since the 1970s, scour incidence has not improved, likely because of extreme variability. Farmers and veterinarians are seeking alternative treatments that deliver guaranteed levels of specific antibodies — without a vaccine.”

During a recent immunology symposium, Dr. Chris Chase with the South Dakota State University department of veterinary and biomedical sciences highlighted the use of preformed antibodies to immunize newborn calves against scour pathogens, ImmuCell said, noting that Chase said these antibodies protect against both bacterial and viral scours.

“With vaccines, there are too many outside factors, making a 100% immunization response rate biologically impossible,” Chase said. “With a USDA-approved antibody product, farmers know exactly what they’re getting: a level of immunity proven in third-party studies to protect against scours.”

ImmuCellImmuCell calf immunology.jpg

CalBio, dairy farmers, Chevron achieve first RNG production

maq123/iStock/Thinkstock dairy cows eating

California Bioenergy LLC (CalBio), Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and local dairy farmers recently announced that their joint venture, CalBioGas LLC, successfully achieved the first renewable natural gas (RNG) production from dairy farms in Kern County, Cal. The milestone underpins the partners’ commitment to provide affordable, reliable and ever-cleaner energy to California consumers.

Manure storage on dairy farms results in the release of methane. CalBio brings technology and operational experience to help build digesters and methane capture projects to convert this methane to a beneficial use as RNG. CalBio, dairy farmers and Chevron are providing funding for digester projects across three geographic clusters in Kern, Tulare and Kings counties in California. As they are completed, these projects will mitigate the dairies’ methane emissions and reduce greenhouse emissions from livestock.

The dairy biomethane projects are designed to send dairy biogas to a centralized processing facility, where it will be upgraded to RNG and injected into the pipeline of local utility SoCalGas. The RNG is then marketed as an alternative fuel for heavy-duty trucks and buses.

CalBio chief executive officer N. Ross Buckenham said, “The project is the result of efforts of a remarkable range of stakeholders, including the California Department of Food & Agriculture, the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utility Commission. CalBio also is honored to be supported by a group of California’s dairy farmers, Farm Credit West and Chevron, California’s largest energy company. These projects bring so many win-wins: They help create local jobs, improve local air quality by producing renewable natural gas for use in low-[nitrogen oxide] emission fleets and reduce dairy methane emissions.”

With other recent Chevron announcements – such as the Adopt-a-Port initiative with Clean Energy Fuels – the company said this milestone further demonstrates its action areas to increase renewables in support of its business and to invest in lower-carbon technologies.

“This is an exciting milestone that speaks to the capabilities and can-do attitude of our partners, CalBio and dairy farmers, to bring this RNG to the California vehicle fuels market,” Chevron Americas Products president Andy Walz said. “Chevron is increasing RNG in support of our business and is making targeted investments and establishing partnerships as we evaluate many emerging sources of energy and the role they will play in our portfolio. And, as a proud California company, we are pleased that local communities in the state will benefit from this investment.”

Penn State adds to avian diagnostic capabilities

Image: Suresh Kuchipudi Penn State Kuchipudi lab.jpg
Penn State's Animal Diagnostic Lab has high-containment labs at biosafety level 2 and level 3, and the chicken isolators will further strengthen the ability of its scientists, three shown here, to carry out in-depth poultry disease and vaccine research.

With COVID-19 continuing to spread around the world, a little-noticed development within The Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences' Animal Diagnostic Laboratory (ADL) takes on added significance.

With funding from Pennsylvania’s Center for Poultry & Livestock Excellence, ADL was able to purchase two chicken isolators that will provide the capability to study highly pathogenic viral infections of chickens under Bio-Safety Level-3 conditions, an announcement said.

“COVID reminded us of the impact of emerging infectious diseases on animal and human health and showed us that we need to be better prepared for mitigating such threats when they happen,” said Suresh Kuchipudi, clinical professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences and ADL associate director. “Lab capacity is absolutely critical to rapidly respond to emerging pathogens and to enable development of diagnostic tests and intervention strategies, such as vaccines.”

The chicken isolators — isolation compartments with a positive- or negative-pressure operation designed specifically to house poultry species and to eliminate cross-contamination during research involving multiple birds — will provide key infrastructure to not only study the pathogenesis of avian infectious diseases but also to evaluate vaccines, the university said.

That capacity is critical, Kuchipudi explained, because infectious diseases remain a major threat to the poultry industry globally.

Rapid and accurate diagnosis is crucial to prevent losses to the poultry industry and to contain the spread of emerging and re-emerging avian infectious diseases, he pointed out. Currently, Kuchipudi noted, there is a limited capacity to study avian infectious diseases in Pennsylvania and to conduct in-depth investigation of any emerging infectious disease threat. This was highlighted in the recent chicken Coryza outbreak.

“At Penn State, we have excellent expertise in avian infectious disease diagnosis, established avian disease research programs, expertise in cutting-edge genomics and bioinformatics and infrastructure, including high-containment labs at Bio-Safety Level 2 and level 3,” he said. “These chicken isolators will further strengthen our ability to carry out in-depth poultry disease research in Pennsylvania.”

Penn State’s avian disease research and surveillance supports the state's second-largest agriculture sector. Pennsylvania ranks third nationally in egg production, and the total value of the state's poultry production — including the turkey, game bird, broiler breeder and embryo (for vaccine production) industries — was estimated to be nearly $1.7 billion in 2017, the university reported.

Emerging infectious diseases continue to be a major threat to the poultry industry, Kuchipudi warned, adding that it is necessary to establish the capability to deal with emerging infectious diseases that threaten it.

“We need to build our ability to gain in-depth insights into the biology of emerging infectious agents and the capacity to develop improved detection, prevention and control strategies,” he said.

Cal-Maine 2021 Q1 results improve

3dmentat/iStock/Thinkstock White eggs lined up in neat rows

Cal-Maine Foods reported results for its first quarter of fiscal 2021 ended Aug. 29, 2020, showing an improved balance sheet compared to the same period last year. However, the company said it continues to face headwinds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Net sales for the 2021 first quarter were $292.8 million, a 21.4% increase compared to $241.2 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2020. The company reported a net loss of $19.4 million, or 40 cents per basic and diluted share, for the first quarter of 2021, compared to a net loss of $45.8 million, or 94 cents per basic and diluted share, for the first quarter of 2020.

“Our results for the first quarter of fiscal 2021 reflect continued challenging market conditions as we proactively monitor and manage our operations in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cal-Maine chairman and chief executive officer Dolph Baker said. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our employees, who continue to work hard every day to produce eggs for our customers, and we are proud of their dedicated efforts to contribute to a stable food supply.”

For the first quarter, total dozens sold were up 3.8% over the same period last year, primarily due to continued strong retail demand as consumers are still preparing more meals at home, he noted.

While demand from foodservice customers is improving as many restaurants have resumed limited service, Baker said foodservice demand is still well below pre-quarantine levels, which he believes has constrained the price of shell eggs in the retail market.

“Market prices for eggs remained volatile over the first quarter and decreased overall compared to prices at the end of fiscal 2020, which reflected increased consumer purchases due to the COVID-19 pandemic and seasonal demand due to Easter falling in the fourth quarter,” Baker said.

The Southeast large market average price for conventional eggs for the 2021 first quarter was 95 cents/doz., up 13.1% compared to 84 cents for the 2020 first quarter. Cal-Maine’s average sales price was up 17.8% from the year-ago first quarter, which was a period of record low prices and an oversupply of eggs.

According to Baker, the overall egg supply has declined significantly, and overall demand is expected to improve as foodservice sales return to pre-COVID-19 levels. Hen numbers reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as of Sept. 1, 2020, were 317.4 million, which represents 15.1 million fewer hens than a year ago, when USDA also reported high flock productivity. USDA reported that the hatch from January through August 2020 decreased 2.7% versus the same period last year, which will likely further reduce future egg supply levels.

For its 2021 first quarter, Cal-Maine said sales of specialty eggs totaled $129.2 million, accounting for 45.2% of its egg sales revenue, compared with $111.2 million, or 47.5% of egg sales revenue, in the first quarter of 2020. The higher specialty egg revenue reflects a 15.5% increase in specialty dozens sold and a 1.1-cent increase in the net average selling price per dozen in the first quarter of 2021 versus the same period in 2020. Baker said demand for specialty eggs was positively affected by the higher conventional egg prices compared to the same period in the prior year.

"An important competitive advantage for Cal-Maine Foods is our ability to offer our customers choice by providing a favorable product mix in a sustainable manner, including conventional, cage-free, organic and other specialty eggs," he said. "In recent years, a significant number of large restaurant chains, foodservice companies and grocery chains, including our largest customers, announced goals to transition to an exclusively cage-free egg supply chain by specified future dates.”

Additionally, he said several states, representing 23% of the U.S. total population, have passed legislation requiring cage-free eggs by specified future dates, and other states are considering such legislation.

“We are working with our customers to ensure a smooth transition in meeting their goals," he said. "Since 2008, we have invested over $389.9 million in facilities, equipment and related operations to expand our cage-free production.”

Looking ahead, Baker said the company remains focused on managing operations in an efficient and sustainable manner, despite the unprecedented challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We understand the challenges and difficult economic environment facing the families in the communities where we live and work, and we are committed to helping where we can,” Baker said.

Cal-Maine is trying to help by providing food assistance to those in need and has donated more than 900,000 doz. eggs in its 2021 first quarter.

“We will continue to pursue our growth strategy and the further expansion of our specialty egg business as we work to safely meet the needs of our customers with outstanding products and service. We look forward to the opportunities ahead for Cal-Maine Foods in fiscal 2021,” Baker added.

Food, ag product trade more than doubles in two decades

wissanu01/iStock/Thinkstock. bring imports exports port container ship FDS

Global agri-food trade has more than doubled since 1995, amounting to $1.5 trillion in 2018, with emerging and developing countries' exports on the rise and accounting for more than one-third of the world's total, according to a new report issued today by the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization.

The “State of Agricultural Commodity Markets” report argues that global trade and well-functioning markets lie at the heart of the development process as they can spur inclusive economic growth and sustainable development and strengthen resilience to shocks.

"We need to rely on markets as an integral part of the global food system. This is all the more important in the face of major disruptions, whether they come from COVID-19, locust outbreaks or climate change," FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu wrote in his introduction to the report.

Rise of global agri-food value chains

The report estimates that about one-third of global agricultural and food exports are traded within a global value chain and cross borders at least twice.

The rise of global value chains is driven by income growth, lower trade barriers and technological advancements, which have transformed markets and trade processes, linking farmers to traders and consumers across regions and countries.

"Global value chains can make it easier for developing countries to integrate into global markets. As they link our food markets closely, they also provide a mechanism to diffuse best practices to promote sustainable development," the FAO director-general said.

In turn, by participating in global value chains, smallholder farmers can boost their food production and income. On average and in the short term, a 10% increase in agriculture's global value chain participation can result in an increase of around 1.2% in labor productivity, the report found.

Smallholder farmers, however, are often missing out on the benefits of global value chains. In addition, the emergence of global value chains with the stringent food quality and safety requirements could further marginalize smallholders.

"We need to redouble efforts to include smallholder farmers in modern food value chains, thus securing rural incomes and food security in both rural and urban areas," Qu said.

The report suggests that there is a need for broad policies to create an environment that enables markets to flourish and bolsters smallholders' participation in global value chains -- for example, better rural infrastructure and services, education and productive technology.

Digital technologies can help markets to function better and can improve farmers' access to them. Innovations such as food e-commerce can benefit both farmers and consumers. However, to guarantee that the dividends of digital innovation are shared with the poorest, the current digital divide in agriculture needs to be reduced.

The adoption of more inclusive business models, such as contract farming and blockchains, can also help farmers better integrate into modern and more complex value chains, FAO said. 

For example, participation in contract farming can increase farm income by more than half, based on an analysis of main studies on contract farming. The report underlines, however, the overall lack of information on the different impacts of contract farming, apart from its impact on farmers' welfare.

Fostering sustainable development

The report makes the case for the role agri-food markets can play in fostering sustainable development. It argues that the promotion and wider application of voluntary sustainability certification schemes and standards in agriculture, for example, can address trade-offs among economic, environmental and social objectives.

Sustainability certification schemes can promote fair trade, inclusion, non discrimination and environmentally friendly farm practices. They also can ensure occupational safety, ban child labor and encourage investments, the report said.

For instance, according to data from smallholder coffee farmers in Uganda, sustainability-certified families spend 146% more on child education and keep children at school longer than non-certified families.

Another study on certification schemes that promote sustainable forests found that the production of forest shade-grown coffee in Ethiopia can help alleviate forest degradation.

The report also points out that while bananas are one of the most traded tropical commodities in the world, only an estimated 5-8% are covered under sustainability standards.

ADM expands protein ingredient portfolio

ADM new ADM Logo 2020 FDS .jpg

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) recently announced the launch of Arcon T textured pea proteins, Prolite MeatTEX textured wheat protein and Prolite MeatXT non-textured wheat protein. These highly functional protein solutions improve the texture and density of meat alternatives and are particularly useful for achieving a consumer-preferred meat-like texture, the company said.

“The key to winning over consumers with plant proteins is fine-tuning the product for optimal sensory appeal. It is essential to get aspects like taste and texture just right,” said Jacquelyn Schuh, product marketing director for alternative proteins. “ADM is the only company offering a full portfolio of textured soy, wheat and pea proteins, which unlocks a virtually limitless range of possibilities for creating exciting new products in the plant protein space.”

ADM’s "OutsideVoice Protein Segmentation Study" found that the top factor motivating consumers in the plant-based category is health and nutrition, while unsatisfactory taste and texture are the top frustrations with the category. ADM said its textured pea and wheat proteins make it easier to overcome this barrier by creating better tasting products with improved texture and color.

Prolite MeatTEX textured wheat protein and non-textured Prolite MeatXT wheat protein contribute meat-like texture to meat and seafood alternative products. With clean taste and a blank-slate color base, ADM said these highly functional proteins offer water absorption and hydration speeds that enhance processing efficiency and reliability.

Arcon T textured pea proteins deliver improved hydration properties and can offer a higher PDCAAS score than other pea proteins on the market, the company said, and with minimized off-notes and a light color, these proteins are ideal for meat alternatives. They also do not require allergen statements, making them suitable for allergen-free products.

ADM offers two forms of Arcon T textured pea protein: one that blends pea protein and chickpeas, and another that blends pea protein with navy beans. Acron T textured pea protein joins the portfolio alongside ADM’s ProFam pea protein powder, which was launched in 2019.