Nutreco is a globally recognised name in animal feed with reach in over 90 countries through its brands Trouw Nutrition and Skretting, yet its strategic investment arm Nutreco NuFrontiers remains relatively unknown. We spoke to Nutreco’s Chief Innovation Officer, Viggo Halseth, to understand more about its ambitious investment plans

Viggo Halseth, Chief Innovation Officer, Nutreco

How is Nutreco leveraging new technologies and ingredients across its animal and aquaculture divisions?
The objective of Nutreco NuFrontiers is to add open innovation to our industry leading in-house R&D. In a connected world, open innovation offers opportunities to reduce research costs, spread risks and bring innovations to market faster. To do so, we make two types of investments. First, we invest in start-ups and scale-ups in new technologies, ingredients, or formulations that can benefit Nutreco’s two divisions, Trouw Nutrition (animal nutrition) and Skretting (aquaculture feed). Second, we create ‘moonshot projects’ via partnerships and joint-ventures with innovative companies to address bottlenecks in the broader animal protein production value chain. More than just an investment fund, we’re looking to be an active developer of tomorrow’s new feed and food businesses, supporting and providing them with industry leading expertise and resource.

What kind of technologies are you particularly looking to invest in, from what kind of companies?
Within animal farming, we focus on four key themes: animal nutrition, animal health, digital farming solutions, and sustainable farming systems. These topics are relevant to us in both livestock farming and aquaculture. Recently, we have expanded our scope to also include alternative proteins for food, as we see this is as the key disruption and opportunity for our industry. Depending on which model would bring most value out of the collaboration, we are open to investing, partnering and creating joint-ventures with start-ups, scale-ups as well as more established companies.

Why is innovation needed now in this sector? Why are projects like the Nutreco Feed Tech Challenge important to your innovation goals?

Nutreco’s mission is ‘Feeding the Future’, reflecting our ambition to contribute to producing sufficient nutritious, high quality food for a growing population in a sustainable way. But to succeed, we need to explore, find and develop next-generation innovations both within our existing businesses and beyond. With initiatives like our Feed Tech Challenge, the start-up competition that we organized, we aim to play our part in linking the world of large corporations with the world of young, creative thinkers. Start‐up entrepreneurs have a vision and a determination ‐ a different way of looking at problems and solutions that we can’t replicate. In past editions of the FeedTech Challenge we engaged with dozens of start-ups, granted winners with on‐farm validation trials in our research centers and established multiple ongoing partnerships and research collaborations with participants.

What successes have you had so far through your investments and getting these exciting technologies to market?
In 2018, the first year of NuFrontiers, we evaluated over 100 potential targets working on new solutions within our focus areas. Out of the companies evaluated, we have completed three start-up investments and formed project-based partnerships with three others. We have invested across both livestock and aquaculture farming, in topics ranging from digital to health to farming. We have made investments in Eruvaka (an IoT start-up working on shrimp feeding equipment), ViAqua (developing feed ingredients for shrimp health) and fodjan (a digital start-up developing on-farm feed formulation software for dairy). To take the example of Eruvaka, Skretting (Nutreco’s aquaculture feed division) works directly with Eruvaka to implement the latest in precision farming technology at shrimp farms, firstly in Latin America. Our partnerships include projects in alternative raw materials and sustainable farming systems. We are working with Kiverdi to develop production of feed protein from CO2 and with SeaFarming Systems on closed containment systems that would address salmon farming’s main sustainability challenges. Of course, we are looking to continue to expand this portfolio and work with more exciting companies and technologies.

Why is World Agri-Tech important for Nutreco, what technologies and opportunities will you be looking out for?
We want to work with individuals and companies with cutting‐edge ambition, who ‘think outside the box’ and believe in finding new ways to solve the planet’s food problems. World Agri-Tech gives us the opportunity to meet those people and get inspired by the exciting content they have to share. Our expertise in animal nutrition can help fast‐track growth; we want to connect with people looking to partner to bring new ideas to market, including start-ups, scale-ups, established companies and potential co-investors in animal farming tech and alternative proteins for food.

Join Viggo’s colleague, Joost Matthijssen, Nutreco’s Investment Director at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit speaking on the Day 2 panel: Exits, Acquisitions & The Future of AgTech Investment at 4.30pm on Wednesday March 20.
Viggo will speak at the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit on a panel about The Microbiome in Precision Nutrition: Leveraging Metagenomics to Improve Quality, Growth Efficiency and Preventative Health at 11.30am on Monday March 18.
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