Date: 18/07/2022

In addition to offering progressively assertive and high-quality solutions to the Animal Nutrition industry, it’s necessary to comprehend the challenges faced by feed producers every day. To this end, BRF Ingredients started BRFi Talks, a new series that will, periodically, interview professionals in Animal Nutrition to talk about the most relevant topics in this market.

For this conversation, we met with Professor Dr. Leonardo Barcellos. He is a veterinarian graduated from UFRGS, has a master’s degree in Zootechnics and a doctorate in Physiology. He has been working at University of Passo Fundo since 2001, teaching disciplines in the areas of Physiology, Animal Well-Being, and Aquiculture. Barcellos is also a consultant to the Ministry of Agriculture in the development of materials and theoretical basis for fish welfare.

Check out the full interview.

What is the current scenario of the Animal Nutrition industry in Brazil?

Professor Barcellos. I realize that the evolution of specific-nutrition knowledge is quite large. This is clear both in basic knowledge of processes such as in operational, of ingredients and ways of formulating diets.

Research in the area seeks to obtain maximum potential of animals. However, obtaining this potential encompasses other factors. No one will invest in superior nutrition if other needs, besides nutrition aspects, are not being addressed. In the specific case of fish, for example, it doesn’t matter if you have access to the best feed if the animals have no access to good quality water, appropriated facilities, and improvement in genetics.

The demand for research is rising. The industries will continue to bring scientific aspects associated with benefits and promotional information of the products, to prove the quality of the product. Therefore, companies are investing in technical teams, courses, and consulting services.

From what it was mentioned earlier, there are three specific areas: environment, ingredients and genetics. Which of these areas presents the greatest challenge?

Professor Barcellos. There are major challenges in all three areas. The greatest one is to spread and share all the learning acquired, so that people can comprehend and relate the facts. For example, the ingredients issue is often connected with the environment aspect of reducing and reusing waste. Therefore, when using a protein which enhances fish performance, we are also contributing for liberation of less nitrogen in effluent.

When a new utilization of an ingredient is generated, such as a different hydrolysed, if the effectiveness is proven, there is a return on investment on the research. After that, we have a big challenge: how to produce and sell to people a product about which they have no knowledge of, even if it is an excellent product? It’s essential to communicate to potential customers the discoveries, learnings and knowledge acquired by the academic field and industry.

In a high-performance nutrition with continued formula enhancements, which developments do you see for ingredients in these markets?

Professor Barcellos. The biggest shifts usually start with sharing new knowledges with the industry. For example, it’s known how the intestine traffic of a swine operates in each stage until the immunity of the mucosa is formed. In this sense, something specific is identified that helps the absorption of nutrients to take place over a longer period, so the swine can absorb what it needs. From this new knowledge, one can consider the use of innovative ingredients which provides this aid.

In addition to providing basic nutritional characteristics to the formula, the ingredients should also stimulate animal response. The great innovation, for me, which is already in full research, refers to high-precision functional nutrition for animals, so that the ingredients grant the appropriate nutritional properties to the feed and also have an effect on the GI tract or other parts of the animal organism.

Analysing the actual panorama of Brazilian market in comparison with other markets around the world, how is Brazil’s situation?

Professor Barcellos. There are matters where we are way ahead and others we are behind. The Brazilian agriculture is very advanced, has several devices developed and conditions to generate its own technology. But, for example, if we look at European salmon farming and compare it to Brazilian fish farming, we will see that Europeans are ahead on matters of technology and humanitarian slaughter, probably because that society has been concerned about animal welfare for over 40 years, while ours is still garnering awareness on the subject.

On the matter of chicken slaughterhouses, Brazil is ahead of other countries. Agriculture evolves in technical terms, in an extraordinary but unequal way between the chains. Even the different animal and plant production systems in Europe are closer to each other. In Brazil, there is a greater contrast between them.

What is the main connection between physiology and animal nutrition?

Professor Barcellos. The relationship between animal physiology and nutrition is highly interdependent. It’s possible not only to know how the animal absorbs the nutrients, but also to know which nutrients change this physiology, that is, nutrients that generates biological effects on the animal. This is the basis of functional nutrition or Nutraceutical.

I believe the main point here is to continually deepen the knowledge about each type of ingredient and food impact on animal physiology. In an experiment made with fish, for example, by changing the composition of amino acids, the expression of receptors that make the absorption of these amino acids increased exponentially, simply by changing the intestine area of fishes, and that caused them to absorb more nutrients. In this experiment, it was the composition of amino acids which caused this result, because the diets were isoenergetic and rich in isoprotein.

What would you say to a professional who wants to dedicate themselves to research in this area of study in terms of qualifications?

Prof. Barcellos. Those inside the university should take every minute to learn more and more. There are two key issues for the professional. The first is to have at least basic knowledge of all subjects related to your profession. And the second is to create a good network of people. Besides the university’s environment, companies increasingly offer opportunities for learning and meeting other professionals.