Public Release: 

$6 million in federal funding makes animal feed go further

Concordia University's Centre for Structural and Functional Genomics to develop next-generation supplement for pork and poultry

Concordia University

This news release is available in French.

Montreal, October 15, 2014 -- Animal feed eats up some 70 per cent of the costs of producing the meat consumed in Canada. Yet up to one-quarter of that feed doesn't actually do much because the animals lack the enzymes that would allow them to digest it.

Now, thanks to new funding, researchers from Concordia University are poised to develop new enzyme combinations for pork and poultry feed that will result in significant improvements in digestion. Those changes mean that animals can get the same nutritional benefits from less feed, which also means less farmland being eaten up.

The funding -- worth six million dollars over three years -- is part of Genome Canada's Genomic Applications Partnership Program with Genome Québec, which partners academic researchers with industry.

For this project, Elanco Animal Health, a division of the global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, and Concordia's Centre for Structural and Functional Genomics (CSFG) have come together on a project that could have a significant economic impact on the animal feed industry, which amounts to $800 million a year globally. That number is expected to grow up to 7-8 per cent each year.

Under the leadership of CFSG director Adrian Tsang, the research team will begin by screening proprietary enzymes for digestibility of common ingredients found in Canadian pork and poultry feed. They will then develop commercial products aimed at improving both feed conversion and producer profit margins.

The project will also help the global food chain deliver safe, affordable food supply - critical in the face of population growth and a looming food security crisis worldwide.

"Globally, 600 million tons of grain are used for swine and poultry feed each year, which take up over 60 million hectares of valuable farmland," explains Adrian Tsang, director of CSFG. "Our goal with this project is to reduce strain on the environment due to decreased animal waste, and to improve overall animal growth and health."

For Concordia, such partnerships with industry are crucial in applying research to marketplace solutions that will benefit Canadians and the world.

"Elanco is globally respected for its innovative work on animal health and our partnership with them underlines the outstanding contributions that Concordia research is making in addressing major food and environmental challenges of our time," says Graham Carr, Vice-President of Research and Graduate Studies. "Adrian and his colleagues are truly world leaders both in advancing fundamental genomics research on enzymes and translating those discoveries into real world applications. We are immensely proud of them and their work."

Tsang is excited to put his research into motion. "My work has always been focussed on environmental sustainability. To feed the growing population at a time of rapid climate change and dwindling fertile land, agricultural practices need to more efficient and sustainable. This is exactly what I hope we can achieve through this project."

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