Probiotic startup looks to expand presence in production animals

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Custom probiotic company Pure Cultures is looking to expand its animal range and research, says co-founder.

The Colorado-based startup recently won the “highly commended” award from FoodBytes for its work in prebiotic and probiotic technology.

“We were sort of  standout because there is a lot of innovation happening in terms of gluten-free solutions and different flours … but what we’re seeing is a trend toward long-term solutions,” said Colleen Kazemi, co-founder of Pure Cultures. “Probiotics and prebiotics have been used in humans for a longtime, and [they have been used] in feed, but it’s a more recent trend – that’s why people were excited.”

Although it was initially interested with probiotic strains aimed at supporting human gut health, the company has been switching its focus to work with production animals, she said.  

“We were monitoring the trend and realized that not only did [producers] need to enhance the gut of animals, but we also had developed a species specific probiotic,” she told FeedNavigator. “We recognized that there was a niche and an opportunity on the animal side, so we pivoted slightly and decided to [focus] more toward the animal.”

The company has since developed specific products for poultry and swine, but is looking to expand, she said.

Antibiotic alternatives

One factor driving the interest in developing products for production animals, like laying hens and swine, is that it has the potential to reduce the reliance on antibiotics, said Kazemi.

“[About] 80% of antibiotics produced are used on healthy animals, and that not only causes antibiotic resistance issues, there’s a pretty significant human value proposition,” she said. “The reality is that probiotics and prebiotics are a viable alternative.”

Prebiotics and probiotics can offer some similar anti-pathogenic effects, she said. And the supplements may help enhance the microbiome.

A goal at this point is to demonstrate the positive effects of prebiotic and probiotic use on a large scale, she said. “What we believe, is that if we can start to show the benefits of probiotics now, that we’ll have the opportunity to be one of the leaders,” she added.

“What we’ve found with the direct-fed microbials is a lot of farmers have said that they have tried probiotics and haven’t seen much effect,” said Kazemi. “But there is a concern with efficacy of the product, storage and maintenance – we have a proprietary technology.”

Upcoming research

The company did initial work with a targeted probiotic strain and poultry, said Kazemi. It has now expanded efforts into work with swine and is in the process of setting up a field trial with the product.

“It’s the same technology for both animals,” she said. “We did do a field trial on the layers side, and they did see decreased mortality from harvest to hatch, and we’re hopeful that it may help with increased shell quality.”

With poultry, the gut health product is designed to be used after hatching and can be given through the start of laying, she said. However, a goal for future research will be to examine the use during different production phases.

The company is currently setting up a field trial examining the product’s use with swine outside of a lab setting, she said. “What we’re excited about is seeing it work in a real farm environment with large herds of swine since we’re a start-up,” she added.

“We’ve done some of the efficacy testing and pathogen testing in the lab, but we’re just starting to embark in the field trials,” said Kazemi. “We expect to have the data in about a month because we’re using it with piglets.”

In addition to the work with swine and laying hens, the company is looking at expanding its efforts to include cattle, she said.

Market segment        

Pure Cultures has been focused on work with small and medium-sized producers in different parts of the US, said Steve Kazemi, company CEO. The plan is to develop long-term relationships with producers and feed nutritionists.  

It has been working with producers individually to address needs faced by specific producers, he said. “We are learning what their needs are on an individual basis and trying to develop our product line to solve their specific issues,” he added.

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