State of the art research partners are the key in developing ideas into top feed innovations

Juhani Vuorenmaa, R&D Director

The effect of nutrition on animal gut health and performance is complex and its research requires knowledge from different branch of sciences. Networking with top research institutes, companies and universities with different expertise offers best possibilities for the development of nutritional solutions for improved gut function and performance.

Hankkija Finnish Feed Innovations (FFI) and its predecessor Suomen Rehu (Finnish Feeds) have been working with multi-disciplinary research network for more than 20 years. We have been lucky in finding always state of the art research partners to support our product development and to increase our knowledge, which we can share with our customers.

Bacterial attachment studies and intestinal immune cell image analysis at Cultor Research Center helped develop Progut®

Hankkija FFI’s predecessor Cultor Ltd. was a Finnish food and feed corporation that started biotechnological research already in 1980’ies. It established a multi-disciplinary research center, which supported the product development of the business units and offered them new research tools. Development of the world’s first feed enzymes and betaine clearly showed us the benefits of the multi-disciplinary approach.

Progut® was one of the products that was developed with the help of Cultor Research Center in the 90’ies. The first method that was designed for its development was E. coli and Salmonella in vitro attachment to intestinal mucus of animals. The method helped us optimize the raw material source and the process for Progut® production. This resulted in the outstanding bacterial binding efficacy that the product still has today. With authentic mucus from target animals and radio-labelled bacteria the method measured accurately the real adherence of bacteria. Another new method that was developed during the early days of Progut® research was computerized image analysis of the intestinal immune cells. In those days, this sophisticated method was very modern and offered us a possibility to measure accurately the effects of feeding on the amount of different immune cells in the gut epithelium.

Glycomic mapping of piglet and broiler intestines and structural analysis of bioactive glycans contributed to further development of Progut®

Glykos Ltd, established in 2004, has special expertise in bioactive carbohydrate molecules called glycans. A long-term cooperation with them took our understanding on bacterial attachment and the molecular sugar structures involved in it to the next level.

Their glycan analysis from the mucus samples of broilers and E. coli susceptible and resistant piglets gave valuable information for further optimization of Progut®. The unique glycan profiling and structural characterization technics of Glykos were utilized in defining the most important sugar structures for E. coli and Salmonella binding and for further process development of Progut® products.

Increased knowledge on intestinal microbiota and its functions trough cooperation with Alimetrics Ltd.

Alimetrics Ltd. is an independent research company, which was established by former researchers of Cultor’s R&D center in 2003. Their expertise has helped Hankkija FFI since the beginning in the product development and building up knowledge, especially concerning the role of intestinal microbiota in animal gut health and performance.

Alimetrics has been a pioneer in gastrointestinal science and has developed various new techniques based on analysis of microbial community DNA over the years. One of the first methods which was developed and used for studying the effects of nutrition on the composition of intestinal microbiota was percent guanine + cytosine (G+C) profiling. This methodology combined with sequencing and qPCR techniques has been shown to be a powerful tool for studying how different feed ingredients or additives or other factors affect the microbiota composition.

One of our joint research tasks has been finding of links between intestinal microbiota and animal performance. Hankkija’s previous studies with another Finnish research company Cyflo Ltd. that utilized flow cytometer based bacteria measures had already showed that microbial balance can correlate with the animal performance.

Usage of qPCR techniques for bacteria measurements with Alimetrics improved the characterization of the bacteria and led into development of Performance linked Microbial Index for piglets. This project, which was done together with our partner Denkavit (NL) collected samples of piglet feces from feeding trials in different countries and revealed that some bacteria were linked with good and some other with poor performance of the piglets.

Future product development and improvement of knowledge is supported by Hankkija’s extended research network and new research methods

Our development of new products, research methods and gaining of new knowledge has not ceased. Hankkija FFI continues to develop new feed innovations with the network of research and industrial partners. The expertise of our old trusted partners is developing all the time and newer partners such as the University of Ghent and Schothorst Feed Research are bringing new knowledge to our product development. The use of gene expression analysis helps us to understand better what is happening in the gastrointestinal tract when different additives are included in the feed.

Different cell culture models are deepening the understanding on the modes of actions of our products. New gut leakage models and collagen break-down analysis give us valuable information on the changes in intestinal tissues during inflammation processes. Development of biomarkers of intestinal inflammation, which would be inexpensive and correlate with animal performance, is one of our most recent tasks. 

Hankkija FFI has invested a lot in gut health related research because the work of independent top research groups gives us confidence that the developed products will consistently show their benefits in animal production. Cooperation with the research partners is also increasing our own expertise, which we can share with our customers.