Ensuring a sustainable food supply involves optimizing productivity of known and traditional food sources as well as seeking new food sources in creative and innovative ways. Novus constantly engages in innovative research and raw material evaluation in order to expand the choices for farmers and producers and enable them to utilize previously unavailable crops and feedstocks in their feed processes.
Open Innovation — Collaborative Problem Solving
Recognizing that outcomes are enriched when solutions are sought beyond the boundaries of a single organization and its people, Novus engaged in a series of open innovation challenges, engaging the global scientific community in seeking solutions to innovation problems and opportunities identified by the Novus R&D team in 2011. Novus conducted four open innovation challenges, posting them to a wide number of scientists and professionals around the world using a proven platform, InnoCentive.com, which enables organizations to connect to diverse sources of innovation in a global marketplace.
In each of the Novus challenges, Novus obtained a range of valuable solutions, evaluated the applicability of each using a number of criteria including sustainability, and awarded prizes for the most applicable ideas. Winning solutions have already been incorporated into Novus R&D programs.
"Open innovation enables Novus to tap into a global audience to generate ideas and benefit from a soundboard to hear the opinions of global experts regarding solutions that Novus suggests. Similarly, there is an opportunity for Novus to form ongoing relationships with the talented experts who propose solutions, which broadens the scope of Novus research and development capabilities in a strategic way."
Improving the Productivity of Dairy Cattle in Uganda
Native Ankole dairy cow consuming Novus’s
Dry Season Supplement during trial.
The body condition of dairy cattle deteriorates in the Ugandan dry seasons between December-February and June-August. During these months, pasture quality decreases and dairy cattle may cease lactation. Through discussion with local farmers and with research partners from the International Livestock Research Institute, as part of a larger Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded East Africa Dairy Development project, dry season nutrition was identified as a serious issue both economically and from an animal welfare standpoint in native Ankole dairy cow herds. It was of particular severity in 2011, when drought conditions after two failed rainy seasons led to the driest year since 1951. Novus worked on a solution for Ugandan farmers with the objective of ensuring all-year-round cattle well-being and productivity. This included field trials on eight farms with up to 20 cows each, evaluating cow productivity with a special Dry Season Supplement. The Novus supplement included added trace minerals and provided additional sources of energy, protein, and minerals to support rumen microbial populations in breaking down dietary fiber and maintaining lactation. Results showed that milk production lasted longer and was higher in cows who received the feed supplement, and cow health was maintained throughout the season. Additionally, farmers reported that cows which received the supplement had higher rates of first conception on rebreeding. Novus Ugandan interns worked side-by-side with local farmers to track body condition and record milk production as well as supplement intake. This solution resulted in a total increase in milk output per cow and offered farmers an economical way of maintaining productivity and producing more food.
Proving the Benefits of Cassava for Animal Feed
In 2011, Novus engaged with the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis to evaluate the nutritional value of various parts of improved varieties of cassava, as potential feed for livestock. Cassava is the third-largest source of food carbohydrates in African countries and is a major staple food in developing countries, providing a basic diet for around 500 million people. It is a highly drought-tolerant crop, capable of growing in poor soils. Traditionally, humans have eaten the root of the cassava plant, as well as some leaves. In collaboration with the Danforth Plant Science Center, Novus was interested in evaluating whether parts of the cassava plant not typically eaten by humans are nutritionally valuable and could benefit livestock, as well as establish the potential for utilizing an important waste-stream to provide a source of animal feed.
In a pilot project, Novus analyzed cassava strains and was able to demonstrate that nutrient concentrations are high in cassava peels, typically a waste product, which might therefore be sourced and fed to livestock species, offering nutritional value at very low cost. Feeding trials will be implemented in Africa during 2012 and if successful, could offer an additional source of nutritious feed, helping farmers become more productive and improving the economic viability of farming livelihoods in Africa.
A Unique Database for New Sources of Animal Nutrition
In line with Novus's commitment to new and creative approaches to improvements in animal nutrition and health, in 2011 Novus provided startup funding for a veterinary ethnobotanical component to an existing botanical database developed and maintained by The William L. Brown Center (WLBC) at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. WLBC is dedicated to the study of useful plants and the preservation of traditional knowledge for the benefit of future generations. With the support of Novus, the "Ethnovet" International Ethnoveterinary Database was created to provide information on plants used to treat illness in animals. Descriptions of traditional ethnoveterinary medical practices are not readily available on the Internet, nor is there an index of effective plant-based remedies against which researchers can check the validity of materials that may be available commercially. "Ethnovet" provides researchers with information about which plants have been used to treat specific illnesses in various species, with plans to provide this database as a free resource to veterinarians and animal feed producers around the world. Currently, there are around 1,500 entries in the database as a result of this pilot project.
"The database could serve as a great tool for the discovery of new leads in veterinary medicine and nutrition. It will be an information source for animal producers along two lines: industry will have new leads for product development in the veterinary medicine and nutrition sector and small producers will gain leads on what possible natural sources could be available to them. The collaboration with Novus was the driving force to get this project moving. We look
forward to future collaboration."
Dr. Rainer Bussmann,
Director of The William L. Brown Center and Ethnobotanist, Vegetation Ecologist, and Conservationist