Vantarion's swine feed supplement packs a punch

Despite the absence of an agricultural industry here, local biotech firm Vantarion has developed a supplement that could significantly cut swine feed costs and improve the weight gain of livestock.
Thursday 30 July 2009 (9 years 7 months 16 days ago)
Despite the absence of an agricultural industry here, local biotech firm Vantarion has developed a supplement that could significantly cut swine feed costs and improve the weight gain of livestock. Primos 25, derived from microbial sources, is 100 per cent natural. It has already been licensed for sale by the authorities in the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

'Our product is already being sold in the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand,' said Vantarion founder and CEO Alfred Chua. 'We expect sales in Vietnam to start in the fourth quarter. We have firm orders for 2009 and our new production capacity is almost used up.'

Commercial development of Primos 25 began in 2007 when Dr Chua was introduced to Singapore-based research organisation Interactive Micro-Organisms Laboratories (IMO Labs). He was presented with 'an interesting technology' which he quickly realised could be used for livestock.

Leaving a high-paying job as marketing director of a multinational company, he set up Vantarion with some of the shareholders of IMO Labs. Vantarion bought the technology and developed it for clinical trials.

According to Dr Chua, data from these trials shows Primos 25 can cut the feed conversion ratio (the quantity of feed required to grow an animal by one kilogramme) to 2.8-2.9, from the average of 3.2-3.5 in Asia.

'This represents about a 12-15 per cent saving on feed cost, which is very substantial, given that 65 per cent of a farmer's operating expense is feed,' he said.

'Also, Primos 25 allows farmers to switch to cheaper locally sourced feed ingredients, for further gain.

'In total, Primos 25 can result in as much as a 25 per cent saving on feed cost. In the clinical trials, we showed a farmer stands to gain up to 50 per cent in profit.

Dr Chua said Primos 25 has also been shown to improve the average daily weight gain of swine by up to 20 per cent, which means a farmer who uses it can sell his livestock earlier, once the target weight is achieved.

Riding on firm orders for Primos 25 and Vantarion's growth potential, the company recently received a $600,000 investment from Spring Seeds Capital and a British angel investor. Under the current Spring Seeds scheme, every dollar raised by a company is matched by $2 from Spring. The investment will give Spring Seeds 13.3 per cent and the unnamed angel investor a 6.7 per cent interest in Vantarion.

The fresh funds will be used to raise production capacity to 50 tonnes a month, from the current 15 tonnes. Primos 25 is being made in Singapore at a GMP (good manufacturing practice)-certified facility off International Road.

'Going forward, we project monthly sales of 50 tonnes, which means we will have to relook our manufacturing strategy and eventually build our own plants,' said Dr Chua.

Vantarion is also gearing up to export to Malaysia and China, where regulatory approval is 'imminent'. The company is especially interested in China, which is the second-largest swine feed market after the US.

'It is also the fastest-growing market, given the low base of meat consumption and rising consumer wealth,' said Dr Chua. 'Per capita consumption of animal protein is much lower than that of the industrialised world.

'If we multiply this by the population in the Tier 1 and 2 cities alone, we can see why the livestock industry has every reason to grow, not only in size but in value. We estimate Primos 25's market potential in China alone to be $400 million.'

Vantarion is looking at building production capacity for China alone. It is also looking for business partners with capital and appetite for its entry into the Middle Kingdom.

Dr Chua stressed that Vantarion will not be a one-product firm. There are several products in its R&D pipeline, including a supplement for poultry feed.

'Although Singapore has no livestock industry, it is situated in the largest livestock region in the world,' Dr Chua said. '80 per cent of world pork production, 50 per cent of poultry products and 90 per cent of duck production is in East Asia. And the market size of the animal feed business in East Asia alone is estimated at US$30 billion or 100 million tonnes a year.'

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