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The World Nutrition Forum 2023

The World Nutrition Forum (WNF), hosted by dsm-firmenich, saw more than 800 delegates gathered for this the fifth hosting of this unique, biannual international event, which served as a platform to discuss modern advances in intensive livestock production, its trends and challenges.

The theme for this year’s WNF was ‘GENiUS’, which specifically focused on the need for new technologies and research.

First launched by Biominn in 2004, WNF has become more than just a company-sponsored conference. Introduced by Biomin as a platform for critical thinking, opinions and addressing challenges, it has become widely regarded as a much-attend event by leading decision makers in animal nutrition and related fields.

It is a global opportunity for industry professionals to engage with each other, address important issues, and look to create a successful future which addresses a growing global population and has been fully embraced by dsm-firmenich which acquired Biomin in October 2020.

Previous editions have taken place across the globe, from places such as Salzburg and Munich in Europe, Singapore in Asia and prior to the Covid pandemic in Cape Town South Africa. This year’s three-day event took place in Cancun, Mexico from May 8-10, 2023.

The event, located in a picturesque spot overlooking the Caribbean Sea, at the Cancun International Convention Centre, was dsm-firmenich’s first opportunity to host the event and presented a thought-captivating conference with significant opportunities for delegates to meet and exchange views – what a phenomenal job it achieved. All this while as DSM announcing on day two its merger with the Swiss company Firmenich, which operates in the fragrance and flavour business, to become dsm-firmenich.

Firmenich employs 10,000 people across 46 manufacturing plants and has six research and development centres. The company has created perfumes for over 125 years and produced a number of well-known flavours.  

Big data on Day One

The Forum started with a one question survey for delegates (participating by scanning the QR code on their name badges) to identify in a word what attendees felt was the most impactful area directing agriculture development – and the result was a clear focus on ‘data’.

Ivo Lansbergen, Executive Vice-President for Animal Nutrition and Health at dsm-firmenich opened the Day 1 with a clear message that the livestock industries could make the impossible possible but only with the gathering and use of data.

Lisa Laprade, Senior Manager Microbiome Sciences, at DSM

While climate change, reducing the production of greenhouse gasses would continue to be positively impacted by developments within the agriculture and aquaculture sectors, sustainability and meeting the food needs of a growing world population were also upper most in the minds of delegates.

In fact, the whole two days kept reflecting the importance of gathering and the use of data and how it has become central in all areas of progress occurring in the livestock sectors.

The first conference presentation was made by Mr Bob Langert, McDonalds Corp’s retired VP of CSR and Sustainability who spoke on ‘The Evolution of Corporate Sustainability and What it Means for You.’

In this he highlights for delegates from across the intensive livestock sector including the aquaculture industry, how corporate sustainability is central to growing a business.

He encouraged businesses to be proactive in reaching this goal, as it provides many benefits to a company. Roger Gilbert, Publisher of International Petfood, spoke with Mr Langert about aspects of his presentation which is available to view on MAGTV YouTube channel:

Frank Mitloehner spoke on ‘Meeting the Grand Challenges of Animal Agriculture on the Environment and World Food Security’. He covered how eating habits can affect climate change and the benefits of feed additives in methane reduction. He states that feed additives have the greatest potential sector-wide in methane reduction and can be feasibly implemented in existing operations. His firm view is the dairy industry can meet methane reduction goals with ease.

Talking on ‘The economics of Sustainability in Animal Protein – A Banker’s perspective’ was Brenda De Swart. Talking on behalf of RaboBank of The Netherlands, she believes that respecting planetary boundaries when doing business has become a precondition for long term commercial success and told delegates that it’s in the finance sector’s ‘best interest’ to commit to decarbonisation in various agriculture sectors.

Brenda De Swart presenting on the economics of sustainability in Animal Protein.

Timo Küntzle, a journalist and author, gave a talk on ‘Agribusiness and the Media: What’s the Story?’. In his presentation he demonstrated how the public image of the industry can be volatile and shaped by misconceptions.

To create a better understanding for consumers it’s important to talk, taking concerns and beliefs seriously. He says industry should keep its messages simple and use trusted experts to explain the facts.

Following the presentations, Professor Qendrim Zebeli received the dsm-firmenich BRAIN award for his outstanding contributions to animal nutrition. The award was presented by Dr Gerd Schatzmayr, Dr Eva Maria Binder and Dr Aaron Cowieson.

Professor Zebeli is the 7th person to receive this award, with the committee referring to his lifetime achievements in the field of research in ruminant nutrition with a focus on mycotoxins and gut/rumen health.

The afternoon held various livstock and aqua breakout sessions, delving into the more specific categories of poultry, swine, livestock and aquaculture issues.

Alexandre Berndt from Abrapagave an insightful presentationonSustainability Actions for Low Carbon Meat’, specifying actions that could be taken, including emission reduction technologies for carbon balance and methane mitigation strategies. He warns that sustainable production systems should not exclude smaller producers from livestock activity.

The merger on Day Two

On the second day of the conference, Ivo Lansbergen announced the merger of DSM with Firmenich, creating a company called dsm-firmenich that brings together a 30,000-strong team in nutrition, health and beauty.

Ivo Lansbergen presenting the four sectors of innovation and focus for the new company dsm-firmenich

International Petfood Magazine sat down with Ivo Lansbergen, during the day, to talk about his reflections on the event and the company (which is available to view on our MAGTV YouTube channel and on our website at: )

The metrics of sustainability

Metrics must be established if we are to measure our progress towards sustainability, Louise Buttle, dsm-firmenich’s aquaculture lead for SustellTM told International Petfood during the World Nutrition Forum 2023.

“When it comes to sustainability, the three key points I raised at the World Nutrition Forum, were first metrics; can you measure it? Second, are farmers willing to pay for it? And third who in the value chain are you prepared to work with?”

Dr Buttle says ‘storytelling’ is no longer enough when it comes to deciding how industries must develop sustainability and the animal protein industry needs metrics in place to establish today’s baseline and importantly set targets for future reduction.

“A lot of companies have set science-based targets ( on their greenhouse gas emissions, based on Scope 1, 2, and 3, of between 30-39 percent reductions. But how are you going to measure reductions towards those targets without credible baselines?”

That’s were Sustell comes in, she says.

It’s a comprehensive sustainability service aimed at all animal protein producers, that measures full lifecycle assessment (including carbon footprint and feed used) so customers can look at ways to reduce the impact by identifying hotspots, evaluating all farm inputs, and using interventions, therefore reducing environmental impact to help achieve targets.

“Everybody in the stakeholder chain is interested in that. Whether its consumers wanting more sustainable seafood, or farmers wanting more efficient production systems, or bankers and investors looking to credit their green loans. There’s lots of interest and engagement in improved transparency, but also in a uniform way to measure environmental impact,” she adds.

“There needs to be more active communication, but we have to keep the messaging simple.

“A lot of sustainability is driven by reputation issues, and we’ve heard here from a journalist’s presentation, how the strategy for bad news travels fast.

“Using a winning reputation within sustainability is a good way forward. On top of that if we think about eco-labelling at retail level, where a consumer can get a food product, such as salmon, that is graded ‘A’ on a score from ‘A to E,’ I think that message, if it’s done correctly, gives the consumer a good benchmark on where that salmon is from, giving an environmental perspective in their purchasing decision.

Beside Sustell having established land-based farming platform, dsm-firminech launched its salmon and cage farming module of SustellTM in June 2022, of which there is a lot of interest.  It is probably the only solution of its kind developed specifically for the salmon industry.  We were very lucky to have Bakkafrost, a Faroese producer from the Faroe Islands, as the development partner in the salmon module.

“We are also working on a marine fish module, so that’ll be for sea bass/sea bream and then also very soon we’re going to deliver a shrimp module,” says Dr Buttle.

And just to close, remember you can only manage what you measure!

Lost yields to mycotoxins

Mycotoxins cost the food industry billions of dollars each year. This is not only due to crop losses or disposal of contaminated food or feed, but also the main effects mycotoxins have on animal production and increased animal health care costs. They are also a trigger factor for development of multifactorial diseases.

“The mycotoxins topic is a very complex one,” says Ursula Hofstetter, Global Head of Mycotoxin Risk Management at dsm-firmenich.

“Often subclinical, the effects we see involve impaired livestock performance, increased feed conversion rates and decreased egg and milk yields,” says Mrs Hofstetter. 

It’s difficult to estimate the amount producers spend on additional health care as mycotoxins decrease the immune system and make animals more susceptible to many diseases, she says.

“What we do know is that mycotoxins are always occurring together. Depending on the analytical method you use, you hardly ever find a ‘clean sample’ free of toxins.”

For example, the LCMS mass spectrometer method, can analyse more than 700 mycotoxins.

“We analyse a couple of thousand samples using this method every year, and on average we have found around 40 different mycotoxins in one sample on average.”

“Our approaches are unique and specific, using the help of enzymes. Enzymes can break up the chemical structure of mycotoxins, resulting in a non-toxic metabolite.”

The effect of climate change on the occurrence of mycotoxins was mentioned during the World Nutrition Forum in Cancun, Mexico.

“Since aflatoxins need a humid and warm climate, they were rarely found in western Europe – except in warmer areas such as Spain and Italy. However, we see now with climate change a shift in occurrence of aflatoxins, moving north due to warmer climates.”

When asked what options feed manufacturers and formulators had to help reduce mycotoxins in raw materials, Mrs. Hofstetter responded, “First, it’s important to regularly check your raw materials.

“It’s also important to check that prevention measures were taken during crop production.

“You cannot destroy mycotoxins which are already there from the field, but you can avoid further formation. For example, there’s a ‘no tillage’ approach. If you plough your field, you bring in the residues from the field into the soil so there is a lower risk of mycotoxins.

“Proper preservation of the feed can help avoid further growth of mould and the further production of mycotoxins. We also recommend using a mycotoxin deactivating product as a kind of prevention or insurance,” she concludes.

Blood talks through big data

Drawing the two intensive days of conference presentations together, Dr Aaron Cowieson, spoke onBlood Talks: Signatures, Patterns and Themes’ which are being revealed by big data analysis of biomarkers from commercial broiler chickens.

He stressed the importance of digital tools, data handling and biomarkers in providing insights for development.

Dr Cowieson mentioned the launch of dsm-firmenich’s new digital precision farming platform – which has started in broilers and is now expanding to laying hens, swine and ruminants


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