For all the advances in modern agricultural productivity, the world still faces a huge challenge if it is to feed 10 billion people by mid-century, using the same amount – if not less – available land. On that point, the Dutch health, nutrition and bioscience firm DSM has been accomplishing its part of this heavy lifting as it seeks to be a vital contributor to a more sustainable and efficient agriculture and food production sector.
From the company’s perspective, no single approach will solve the hurdles in securing a safe food supply, and DSM’s model demonstrates how an “all-of-the-above” approach is needed during the next few decades. New plans to feed the world will require transforming conventional means of animal farming and food production, the development of next-gen foods including plant-based proteins and investments in technology that can benefit both farmers and food manufacturers.
TriplePundit recently spoke with Jacobine Das Gupta-Mannak, DSM’s director of sustainability and lead nutrition, to learn more about how scientists at DSM are addressing the challenge to feed the world.
From Das Gupta’s point of view, DSM’s range of products, which includes vitamins, enzymes, supplements and premixes that go into food and feed, can work as “amplifiers” in the global food production industry’s value chain. “When additives are added to the feed of cattle and fish, you can help abate greenhouse emissions,” said Das Gupta. And among feed additives, Bovaer appear particularly efficient as “one tablespoon of our additive Bovaer can reduce a dairy cow’s methane emissions by 30 percent.”
The aquaculture industry is another example where the company says it is making headway – necessary as the global demand for protein such as fish will continue to grow at the same time more wild fisheries are becoming depleted. For example, Veramaris, a joint venture between DSM and Germany-based Evonik, produces an algae-based oil feed ingredient for farmed fish such as salmon. The resulting product contains nutrients such as the Omega-3 fatty acids necessary for the nutrition of both marine life and humans, yet vastly reduces the need to catch small oily fish such as anchovies. Every ton of algal oil produced at Veramaris’ factory in Nebraska displaces the need to catch 60 tons of wild-caught oily fish.
True, global organizations such as the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and consultancies like McKinsey have been forecasting continued growing demand for animal-based protein worldwide. Nevertheless, consumers’ demand for plant-based protein keeps growing, with one report suggesting that this niche market could reach close to $40 billion in value by 2027.
Here again, DSM has ensconced itself as a vital part within this sector’s value chain.
When it comes to plant-based foods and beverages, Das Gupta noted that “Our role is to make it nutritious, delicious and sustainable. We have enzymes that help to create the good taste and mouthfeel consumers expect, texturizing hydrocolloids for authentic bite and juiciness, along with vitamins to ensure consumers can meet their expectations on nutritional value.”
Note that key word: expectations.
When one looks at the ingredients list for a plant-based dairy alternative, the reality is that the first and foremost ingredient in them is water – more than 90 percent in many cases. The challenge, then, is to ensure that these beverages have both the consistency and nutritional profile for which consumers are searching. DSM’s product line of DelvoPlant enzymes together with its texturizers and vitamin blends help companies in this space meet such demands. As a result of using these enzymes, soy- and rice-based drinks can taste sweet, not chalky; a glass of such a beverage can be visually appealing while coming as close as possible to resembling dairy milk; and, these products also provide their share of a person’s daily requirements for vitamins and minerals.
As for a plant-based protein entrée complementing that beverage, DSM has found a product within one of the world’s most commonly grown oil seed plants. A joint venture between DSM and France-based Avril Group produces extracts from canola seeds - CanolaPRO - that manufacturers can then add to their plant-based products. The result is a sustainable, nutritionally complete source of protein that food companies seek, and at the same time, this ingredient helps provide the texture and mouthfeel that consumers expect.
“In general, at DSM we are agnostic about protein demand. We will need to make sure all forms of proteins will be produced, nutritious, and done so sustainably,” Das Gupta told 3p, “because when it comes to feeding the world, it’s not an ‘or,’ but an ‘and.’”
With that said, DSM is not only a health and nutrition company; like many 21st-century enterprises, it is also a technology company.
One outcome of DSM’s continued evolution is its technology platform, Sustell.
Last year, the company launched the Sustell service, which DSM describes as the first-of-its-kind intelligent sustainability platform that delivers accurate, simple and actionable solutions for farmers raising livestock. The results are a win-win all-around: an improvement in a farm’s environmental footprint, plus a support in profitability for farmers.
Partnering with DSM on this sustainable animal farming quest is Blonk, a consultancy with expertise in life cycle analysis (LCA) and the improvement of sustainability performance within the global food and agriculture sector.
DSM built the Sustell platform around Blonk’s APS-footprint tool, which monitors animal production systems while decreasing their environmental impact. Users have access to features such as an “expert center” comprised of DSM and Blonk experts in life-cycle analysis, animal nutrition and sustainability. This expert center works with animal protein producers with the goal of optimizing the environmental footprint of their farm’s production. Solutions are then customized for each individual user based on the farm’s actual data instead of general industry averages and proxy data sets.
Going a step further, the platform offers case-specific intervention scenarios, i.e., “what-if” models that can help a food producer make the best-informed and measurable improvements in sustainability performance.
Das Gupta made it clear that for all of DSM’s scientific prowess, the company’s network of partners is also integral to the company’s growth and continued innovation. Such work with various business groups helps the company strive to accomplish whatever is possible so that DSM’s 23,000 employees can together make a significant change for the better across the world.
“All our innovation in business is directed to making progress and delivering beneficial societal impact. And, our partners help us co-create new solutions,” Das Gupta told 3p. “They bring in additional science, product development and nutrition development.”
This article series is sponsored by DSM Animal Nutrition and Health.
Image credit: Andy Kelly via Unsplash
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.