Nutreco Exploration (NutEx)

Nutreco Exploration (NutEx) develops novel and proprietary ultra-specialty ingredients and empowers development of innovative functional feeds.

One way we are working towards our purpose of Feeding the Future is through our strategy to become a market leader in the feed additives segment by launching creative, novel, effective and proprietary solutions in our markets.

In the past, Nutreco pursued growth in this space by acquiring feed additive companies and investing in our own internal R&D, but this is not enough. We need to approach ultra-specialties in a more transformative way – looking for solutions to the unmet needs of farmers and establishing completely new avenues for business development. Ultra-specialties are high value solutions to relevant industry problems; they require a strong level of science for their development and have significant barriers to entry. 

This is why, in 2021, we created Nutreco Exploration (NutEx), a small entity that serves as a creative engine feeding the Innovation Groups of Selko, Skretting and Trouw Nutrition with the novel solutions they need.

While Innovation teams across the business keep focusing on identifying customer needs and managing the life cycles of our product portfolios, NutEx explores two programs – phytotechnology and microtechnology – to discover novel ideas and develop them into exclusive ingredients to match the needs of Nutreco’s businesses. 

Our Phytotechnology program harnesses the power of the plant kingdom for application in aquatic species and livestock. It enables us to develop Phyto-actives, or plant metabolites which, when added to feed, display a specific molecular effect that is beneficial for animal performance, health and welfare. A Phyto-active is protected by a patent, possibly cultivated variety ownership and is associated with high entry barriers, making this an area where we can find significant differentiation. 

Our Microtechnology program mines the function of the microbiome for application in aquatic species and livestock. Through it, we develop Biome-actives, or gut bacterial functions that, when added to feed, display a beneficial effect on animal performance, health and welfare. Biome-actives can be conveyed by a protein, e.g., an enzyme, an effect of a consortium of live bacteria, or another compound. 

Each of these programs works closely with the business, operates its own centre of excellence and applies discovery driven planning. In addition, NutEx also creates new avenues for business by identifying ingredients or technologies that can bring us into new product segments and give us better access to a wider range of customers with different expectations. Taken together, this is raising the bar on how we can tailor our solutions to meet our customers’ needs through stand-alone additives, functional premixes, or functional feeds, and setting us apart in our industry. 

The NutEx team

Dr. David Bravo 

As Chief Science Officer (CScO) of Nutreco, David created and now leads NutEx. This involves the strategy, building and leading the team and creating and managing the programs.

David has a strong track record of innovating in the feed industry, having served in a variety of positions including leadership ones in feed, premix and feed additive companies like Pancosma in Switzerland, In Vivo NSA in France and Land O’Lakes in the United States. David studied nutrition, molecular physiology and physiology at universities in France; he is also an alum of Harvard Business School. 


Dr. Emma Wall

Dr. Emma Wall has been Director of Discovery for Phytotechnology within the Nutreco Exploration team since January 1, 2022.  Emma manages the Phytotechnology Centre of Excellence and works directly with the business divisions to help bring novel, proprietary and relevant phytotechnologies to market.

Emma has been closely connected to agriculture since studying Animal Science at the University of Vermont. Then, after managing a herd of Jersey cows for two years, she went on to obtain her MS and PhD in Lactation Physiology followed by a post-doc in Immunology.  Emma has been working in the feed additive industry for over ten years, with expertise in the physiology of phytochemicals and how they impact animal health and production. With personal experience in both science and application, Emma has a passion for not only for bringing effective solutions with known mechanisms, but also understanding customer needs and challenges and optimizing ROI when it comes to technology deployment.  


Lucia Luijben

Lucia Luijben has been Exploration Manager as part of the Nutreco Exploration team since January 1, 2022.  She drives the process of exploring new technology areas and partners for the development of novel feed additive solutions.

Lucia joined Nutreco in 2019 as Investment Associate in the NuFrontiers team. As part of NuFrontiers, she managed the team’s lead flow, identifying and evaluating technology companies in livestock and aquaculture that Nutreco could potentially partner up with and invest in.

Before joining Nutreco she worked on a biotech start-up and as a technology consultant. She obtained a master’s degree in Biotechnology from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. 


Dr. Yanming Han

Yanming has been Discovery Director Microtechnology within the Nutreco Exploration team since May 2022. He leads the discovery activities for Nutreco’s Microtechnology program, which involves everything from the upstream activities of defining and discovering new solutions, all the way through to the development of these solutions into products. 

Yanming joined Nutreco after completing a post-doctoral fellowship in molecular biotechnology, and spent over 20 years in Canada and the Netherlands, working across animal species and continents in feed additive and nutrition research and development, in close collaboration with leading academic groups all over the world. He holds a Ph.D. in animal nutrition with a focus on enzyme discovery and application.


Melchior de Bruin, DVM MSc

Melchior has been Development & Deployment Manager within Nutreco Exploration since June of 2022. He joined Nutreco for the first time in 2021 as global programme manager on the Selko team.

Before that, Melchior worked in the field as a specialised veterinarian for poultry (and aquaculture) for almost eight years. During his time as practicing veterinarian, he was active as an international consultant for poultry, lecturer at two institutes and a project lead in field studies for pharmaceutical- and feed additive companies. Melchior holds a degree in veterinary medicine and public health from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.


Dr. Karin Berger 

Karin is Phytotechnology Discovery Director at Nutreco Exploration. She and her team are based in Switzerland and engage in the discovery, exploration and characterization of plants and their compounds aiming to create solutions for the animal industry.

Karin has 25 years of experience and a broad background in botany, pharmacognosy, phytochemistry and pharmacology. Her professional career has been dedicated to research in medicinal plants and the development of plant-based products for diverse applications, including phytopharmaceuticals, food supplements, feed and feed additives, and cosmetics. Together with her husband, Bernd Büter, she started Vitaplant and later breeding botanicals international. She lectures at the University of Basel, the Bern University of Applied Sciences, and the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich.  


Dr. Bernd Büter

Bernd is Director of Nutreco Exploration’s Phytotechnology Program and Centre of Medicinal Plant Solutions based in Switzerland. He has more than 20 years of experience in plant breeding, plant variety registration, biotechnology, plant propagation, multi-location-multi-accession field trials and commercial cultivation in temperate, subtropical and tropical climates. Before joining Nutreco, Bernd founded Vitaplant, dedicated to the rational use of medicinal plants and the production of the corresponding plant raw materials. He ran the company as CEO for 15 years, together with his wife Dr. Karin Berger, before selling it to a leading Swiss phytopharmaceutical company.

During his education and professional career, Bernd lived and worked in various countries outside of Europe, such as India, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Kenya, Bolivia, and the U.S. Bernd studied Biology in Hannover and Agronomy in Kassel and then did a PhD in Plant Biotechnology at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich.