25 November 2019 – Dublin, Ireland-based biotech firm Auranta – a spin out from NovaUCD – has grown from a start-up in 2013 to becoming an increasingly-recognised company in the feed additive sector, and has most recently made the headlines by winning an Irish Times Innovation Award.
Auranta supplies products which are based on synergies between plant extracts and natural organic acids, in liquid and powder formats; product which the firm claims boosts gut health, immunity and performance in calves, poultry, and pigs,
Founded by Dr. Pat Ward and John Cullen, Auranta has offices and laboratory space at NovaUCD and Alexandra House, Dublin. Today, the company is collaborating closely with various universities, including, University College Dublin, and agricultural research institutions, to further develop and test the company’s products.
John Cullen, who is also managing director at Auranta, recently spoke to Feedinfo News. Service about his company’s six-year journey, its innovation project, its “scalability”, and what the future may look like for his business as it seeks to solidify its presence in the
[Feedinfo News Service] Mr. Cullen, can you provide an overview of the development of Auranta – from concept to market reality?
[John Cullen] Over the past six years Auranta has grown from an early start-up to an established company in the feed additive industry. This has been in no small part due to the knowledge and expertise we have garnered from the people who have joined our team. The spread of technical expertise provided by Dr. Patrick Ward (microbiological researcher and product developer), Prof. Nicolae Corcionivoschi (bacteriologist and virologist), and Prof. Tom Barragry (specialist veterinarian and pharmacologist) has been vital and a major component in establishing our company’s competitive advantage. From a business management perspective, we have also received insights from Dr. Chris Horn, who joined our team back in 2017. His experience in investing in emerging technologies on a global scale has really strengthened Auranta’s commercial focus.
[Feedinfo News Service] Can you talk about your ties with University College Dublin? Do you have ties with other animal nutrition research institutes or firms in Ireland?
[John Cullen] University College Dublin and Auranta’s partnership was instrumental in the early success of our company. Auranta was a member of UCD’s Incubator Programme in NovaUCD, which provided our company with office space and a fully equipped laboratory that was vital in the early stage development of our products. As we have grown, we have also formed strategic partnerships with various research institutes across the globe such as: Agriculture Food Bioscience Institute (AFBI) in Belfast, The London School of Tropical Medicine, Banat Veterinary Medicine, King Saul University (Saudi Arabia) and Edinburgh University. We also have academic and business links with vets in Southeast Asia.
[Feedinfo News Service] The industry already uses plant extracts and
organic acids, maybe not frequently in combination. Why would a feed
customer turn to Auranta rather than already established phytogenic feed
additives and organic acids manufacturers?
[John Cullen] We cannot comment with our competitors as we would not be fully familiar with them, it’s the task of the agronomists and feed formulators in the mills and at farms to make the comparison and conclude. Our research is specific to our products and we can stand behind their efficacy. At your Feed Additives Europe conference 2019 in Amsterdam in September, we were pleased to learn about the statement made by Prof. Fink-Gremmels (Utrecht University). She emphasised the need to combine strategies and technologies of natural-based ingredients to maximise the synergistic potential, if we wish to reduce the need for antibiotics, and help the animal in episodes of stress. Auranta is exactly meeting this demand. Our product also favourably impacts on the microbiome and its natural immunological properties have been evidenced in research papers. And crucially the Auranta product assists in the control of AMR by allowing for a reduction in the use of antibiotics in animals.
[Feedinfo News Service] So, how do you compete with respect to price,
features, and performance? And how well has the product been received by the
market so far?
[John Cullen] Auranta is a highly differentiated product with premium performance and a tailored service delivered personally to our customers. Yes, we may be marginally more expensive than some of our competitors. However, when you consider the sustainable competitive advantage we deliver to our customers, any difference in price becomes almost negligible.
Up to now our calf liquid product has three seasons on the Irish market as a test market. Our customers are claiming to have reduced calf mortality to less than 1% from 6-7% average. On protocols where the product is used for most or all the milk cycle, weight increases of 10-17% is being reported depending on the feeding level. Our next big step is to get our dry calf product into calf milk replacer as a standard ingredient. In piglets we are in 15% of the creep and link in Ireland, which facilitates the removal of ZnO when used in conjunction with a slightly low protein diet. We are in 30% of the piglets in South Africa and we are getting more involved in piglets in Thailand and
Vietnam for prevention of diarrhoea.
In poultry we have built up a loyal following in Southeast Asia for the reduction of antibiotics and give a boost after the application of vaccines. We now have customers that have reduced/removed their requirements for antibiotics for the last two or three years in Southeast Asia while there profits due to improved performance are up 10 to 15%. Approximately 1 million birds per week successfully receive our product.
[Feedinfo News Service] Can you let us know where Auranta is in the
production process? Are you scaling up? What are you aiming for in the coming
[John Cullen] Auranta has the capacity to meet demands currently and we can grow the company 50-fold without the need for new investment. Our products are manufactured in Ireland and that will continue to be the case in the foreseeable future. We may need to organise repacking in the Southeast Asia if that business grows significantly as we have set up a hub with a group of vets in Thailand.
[Feedinfo News Service] Can you disclose what the company’s strategic plans
are for the coming months? What about from the product regulatory point of
[John Cullen] The products are fully compliant “Complimentary Feed Additives” that are made under GMP+. We are fully licenced by the department of Agriculture in Ireland and audited and approved in the usual way. From a business viewpoint we will look to carve out our niche at the premium end of the market with a pipeline of new ideas and technologies coming down the track. We also hope to explore new growth opportunities by establishing strategic partnerships with companies currently developing complimentary technologies.
[Feedinfo News Service] Is Auranta looking for outside investors?
[John Cullen] We are always open to strategic investments, co-partnerships as ways to grow our business and expand the potential of our very timely product, and we are looking at a couple of options at present. We hope to reinvest this capital in progressing our product pipeline, expanding our internal capabilities by hiring business development experts and diversifying our market offering into other areas. We will probably be picked up by a larger company and integrated into their products, especially as the controls on medicated feeds are tightened under new legislation.
[Feedinfo News Service] How big is the potential market for Auranta? What are
the company’s financial projections?
[John Cullen] Today, Auranta has recurring sales in eight countries right now and we have had our first sales in 10 more. We hope to have a presence in 25 countries by the end of 2020. Auranta has the capability to grow significantly in the coming three to four years. There are opportunities for well researched and proven products in this space in the coming years. We are confident that Auranta technology has the potential to exceed sales of EUR 100 million annually provided we continue to strategically market our products and grow sales in an efficient manner. One of the major contributing factors to our lofty predictions for our company is that we believe that with the European Union’s regulations of the feed additive market and prevailing market trends, large companies are demanding meat produced from antibiotic-free practice. And we are not alone in our optimism, various investors and institutions share our vision of Auranta and are currently working alongside us to ensure that we reach our full potential.
Source: FeedInfo.com by Mr Simon Duke