Changing the industry at Nutreco’s Garden of the Future

25 January 2024

Our phytotechnology team at Nutreco’s Garden of the Future facility in Switzerland is breaking new ground every day – both literally and figuratively – and we talked to Nutreco Exploration’s Director of Development and Deployment, Dr. Emma Wall, to find out more.

Emma is a physiologist by training, who has spent her whole career in the livestock botanical space. In her current role, Emma and her team focus on maintaining a strong connection between our business lines, Trouw Nutrition and Skretting, and the Nutreco Exploration team, to help ensure the solutions we develop precisely fit the needs of farmers. This is only one of many things that makes Nutreco Exploration’s approach to PhytoComplexes very different from anything we’ve seen in the industry to date; it’s unique not only in terms of our development process, which veers away from traditional R&D to focus solely on business needs, but also the science, which, according to Emma, required an important mindset shift.

Traditionally, the phytotechnology industry has mainly taken a pharmaceutical approach to product development, only utilising extractions that could be completely isolated and identified. Products were often made up of synthetic chemicals; for example, instead of using essential oil of cinnamon, companies would use synthetic cinnamaldehyde. “This approach required knowing exactly which chemical was responsible for the effect produced – and it trivialised the power of traditional medicine,” said Emma. “What we’re producing at Nutreco Exploration is always in a complex, never a single ingredient. Our PhytoComplexes use the whole plant or complete plant extract, fully utilising the amazing power of nature to help animals overcome the complex challenges they face today.”

This approach required Emma and some of the other experts on the team to shift their mindset. “We had to train ourselves to really respect nature,” said Emma. “These compounds are put together in plants for a reason – when you start taking them apart, you lose bioefficacy. So, we’re trying to not only respect the observation of what we see in these plants, these PhytoComplexes, but also respect that they’re meant to be together, that there is redundancy in nature for a reason.”

And we’re confident our customers will see how effective our approach is when they start to use these products, because the PhytoComplexes we are creating are totally different from traditional phytotechnology – they work by improving an animal’s systems to boost its resilience. The Nutreco Exploration team looks at the weak points in an animal, such as gut integrity or inflammation, and figures out how we can use a PhytoComplex to hit those targets.

The role of Emma’s team within Nutreco Exploration is to stay close to our business lines and our customers, to ensure everything we work on creates value. The Nutreco Exploration team only works on projects that fit existing business needs and address specific challenges we’ve identified – never on concepts that may be interesting but have no business accountability. This is reliant on the team constantly cultivating relationships to help us understand the needs of customers. One might come to us with a vague idea of a problem they need to have solved, and after multiple conversations to understand more, they start working with our phytochemists to get down to a molecular level. The team is a powerhouse of expertise, with people who have 10 to 30-plus years of expertise in phytotechnology.

The Nutreco Exploration team is our empowerment tool for our two business lines, said Emma. The team couldn’t exist without this business connection. We’re not replacing our R&D teams, we want to empower them throughout the product development process with knowledge, tools and these PhytoComplexes that can help them address customers’ issues in new and exciting ways.

Our business lines continue to own the product and the trials. We involve them in the discovery phase as soon as we have a positive result. This unique approach creates value for livestock and aquatic species, for our customers, and for us.
Dr. Emma Wall, Nutreco Exploration’s Director of Development and Deployment

Nutreco is really making history with our Garden of the Future – and we believe it will change the industry as we know it. The grand opening of the facility will take place this spring, with a media day on June 5 and a customer tour on June 6.

Stay tuned for more!