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With NIR technology, producers can analyze hundreds of samples per day

16 April 202411 min reading

Interview: Cemalettin Kanaş


“At-line NIR analysis can examine hundreds of raw ingredients and finished feed samples per day and return results in less than a minute. This allows plant operators to take corrective action quickly, reducing inconsistencies and wasted products.”

Casey Thomson
Senior Applications Engineer
KPM Analytics

In the fast-paced world of feed and pet food production, efficiency is not just desirable; it’s essential. With the advent of Near-Infrared (NIR) technology, this efficiency has reached unprecedented levels. It was with this groundbreaking technology in mind that we sat down with Casey Thomson, Senior Applications Engineer at KPM Analytics, to unravel the intricate web of advancements and possibilities it brings to the industry.

With Ms. Thomson, we had the opportunity to delve deep into the advantages of NIR technology. She underscored the significance of its ability to revolutionize the way producers analyze samples, remarking, “At-line NIR analysis can examine hundreds of raw ingredients and finished feed samples per day and return results in less than a minute.” This capability not only streamlines production processes but also enhances quality control measures, allowing producers to maintain rigorous standards without sacrificing speed or efficiency. 

Throughout our conversation, Ms. Thomson emphasized the transformative impact of NIR technology on feed and pet food production. From optimizing ingredient quality to reducing costs and minimizing inconsistencies, NIR technology emerges as a game-changer, empowering producers to navigate the complexities of the industry with confidence and precision.

Below are Casey Thomson’s answers to our questions:

First of all, can we get you know you briefly?

I provide technical expertise to customers and can help across the KPM Analytics’ full range of product offerings to serve the feed and food production industry. Before joining KPM Analytics, I worked for Hanna Instruments for eight years as an Applications Engineer and have experience as a lab technician. I received my undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry from Rhode Island College.

Can you provide an overview of KPM Analytics’ current market presence and activities in the livestock feed and pet food industry? Are there any upcoming initiatives or strategies aimed at strengthening KPM Analytics’ foothold in existing markets or breaking into new ones within the near future?

KPM Analytics and its product brands have served the feed and pet food industry for several decades. Our Near-Infrared (NIR) solutions offer fast, precise, and reliable results on core quality constituents. These include protein, moisture, fat (ether extraction and acid hydrolysis), crude fiber, ash, starch, and much more. 

Through our line of SpectraStar™ XT Series NIR Analyzers, we are continually adding new NIR calibrations to our offerings to help serve livestock feed and pet food producers achieve higher standards for quality and consistency while also providing a solution to help validate their suppliers and their incoming ingredients. 

NIR for compositional analysis of ingredients and finished products is not the only value we provide to feed companies. For instance, KPM offers in-line vision inspection technologies with high-resolution cameras and measurement software to scan products for consistent size, shape, color, and other features before packaging. These systems also aid in the detection of unwanted foreign materials that can find their way into the production process. Vision inspection is beneficial for pet food and pet treat producers to help them ensure the products inside look like the ones featured on the product packaging, thereby improving consumer trust and building brand value. 

NIR’S BATTLE IN THE FEED INDUSTRY

Can you provide an overview of the challenges faced by livestock feed and pet food producers in achieving consistent nutritional profiles in their final products, particularly regarding protein levels?

Today, many feed mill operations still face supply chain issues and rising costs. As a result, many have begun working with different suppliers from different regions to continue production. Introducing new ingredient suppliers to an operation can result in batch-to-batch variations. Feed mill companies can gain a good indication of quality by measuring their incoming ingredients’ moisture, fat, and protein levels. 

Protein is a significant component in compound feed rations – and a key payment criterion for many ingredient suppliers. However, natural variances in raw materials can cause protein levels to range from as much as 33 to 45%. 

Feed producers of all kinds can experience rapid savings on protein optimization alone. With the ability to completely optimize feed ingredients and supplements in their compound feed products, most mills can typically pay for their NIR instrument in months. 

How do various factors influence the nutritional profile of ingredients used in livestock feed and pet food production?

Compound feeds encompass various components, ranging from animal meals and agricultural commodities such as grains and forages to oilseeds and other byproducts derived from diverse manufacturing processes. These processes can include vegetable oil extraction and even biofuel production. 

Anything from the quality of the growing season and harvest to the storage of ingredients before processing can impact nutritional profile quality of the final feed or pet food product. When a producer includes additives to meet dietary requirements – vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and others – can alter the nutrition profile of the final feed product. 

The landscape has further evolved to incorporate novel byproducts emerging from other food processing streams, such as beet pulp, vegetable pomace, and similar ingredients. These have assumed considerable importance as critical constituents in feed blends. It is worth noting that these components exhibit a broad spectrum of nutritional qualities. This variance can pose a significant challenge in the quest for consistent nutritional profiles and content in feed production.

Could you explain the role of Near Infrared (NIR) technology in addressing these challenges and ensuring consistent nutritional profiles in feed production?

Efficient production often represents the difference between profitability and loss for compound feed producers. This holds particularly true when obtaining raw ingredients as commodities based on specific dietary parameters.

With a sample in place, the NIR analyzer introduces light to the product to measure absorbance at each wavelength precisely. Robust calibrations transform the spectral information into specific constituent values that human visual inspection cannot quantify.

In the case of SpectraStar XT Series Analyzers, users can gain highly accurate results on a vast range of essential quality constituents in about 30 seconds of analysis time. NIR users require very little training – fill the sample cup, begin the analysis, and take necessary actions based on the results. 

What specific benefits does NIR technology offer in terms of optimizing ingredient quality and reducing costs for feed producers?

Whether the user is analyzing ingredient quality and supporting claims, ensuring proper batch or continuous processing conditions, or verifying the final product for quality, label, or specification claims, NIR is a go-to solution for many feed and pet food companies to accomplish all. 

Can you elaborate on how NIR technology enables real-time analysis at multiple production stages and its impact on efficiency and quality assurance in feed production?

Ingredient analysis is one facet of the process involved with quality control in feed production. Beyond this initial stage, feed mill operators must also monitor and control the mixing stage, measure moisture levels in dryers and extruders, and optimize fat sprays. 

Even after a manufacturer has developed its procedure, it requires careful monitoring. Machinery and procedures, while robust, are not perfect. Over time, machinery performance can subtly evolve, potentially leading to variations that push batches beyond their targeted specifications. 

To monitor these performance fluctuations, KPM also manufactures in-process NIR configurations installed over production lines to analyze products at critical process stages. With real-time analysis, feed mill production operators can adjust dryer temperatures or take corrective measures to reduce the overuse/over-formulation of ingredients. 

These examples highlight the benefits NIR offers for monitoring quality along the production line. It helps the producer respond quickly and make changes to avoid miscalculations, overages, or waste. Regular online analysis through consistent sampling offers real-time information. Having access to real-time data benefits production managers who practice reactive process management.

How does the implementation of NIR technology contribute to cost savings and provide competitive advantages for feed producers?

Every compound feed mill must examine several completed feed samples to guarantee uniformity and adherence to stated specifications. At the cost of $25 USD/sample for fundamental nutritional analysis, the feed mill will spend more than $35,000 USD/year analyzing five samples per day for quality data that can take 1-3 days to receive from an outsourced quality lab. 

At-line NIR analysis can examine hundreds of raw ingredients and finished feed samples per day and return results in less than a minute. This allows plant operators to take corrective action quickly, reducing inconsistencies and wasted products. 

Additionally, there are many other areas in a compound feed mill where rapid analytical results can increase efficiency and reap considerable cost savings. The moisture levels in the finished product may be the easiest to quantify. Standard humidity calibrations usually have a margin of error below 0.5%. This high level of precision, along with enhanced testing and instant outcomes from NIR analysis, frequently enables operators to operate 1% nearer to the indicated humidity levels, thereby boosting production and decreasing the cost of raw materials. 

NIR’S BEST PRACTICES FOR SEAMLESS INTEGRATION

Are there any particular considerations or best practices that feed producers should consider when integrating NIR technology into their production processes?

Integrating at-line NIR technology into a company’s production process is not a disruptive effort for most companies. The time and effort come through developing NIR calibrations that meet the needs of the feed or pet food producer’s specific product line. 

Most calibrations are derived from hundreds of samples collected over numerous years and from various locations, ensuring precise and dependable outcomes. Because of KPM’s longevity in the industry, we have access to the industry’s most robust calibration library. Our customers can either use our pre-programmed calibrations or develop personalized calibrations for their devices to assess quality attributes of distinct product compositions.