"Besides covering the logistics and selling side, we backward integrated through the establishment and acquisition of production facilities to strengthen our industry expertise."
Could you comment on the company’s performance in FY21?
We have come through yet another extraordinary year in which headlines continued to be dominated by supply-chain disruptions and COVID-19 restrictions. In this situation, our priorities shifted immediately to keeping our colleagues safe and our business operations running. I am incredibly proud of all our staff for standing together to overcome the impacts of the pandemic.
Could you elaborate on Behn Meyer’s investment in production?
We decided that we wanted to do more around product development and production across our four pillars – Agricare, Ingredients, Performance Chemicals, and Polymers. Besides covering the logistics and selling side, we backward integrated through the establishment and acquisition of production facilities to strengthen our industry expertise. Today, Behn Meyer operates factories in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands and the USA to support our specialty distribution business.
How does sustainability play out at Behn Meyer?
In 2021, we ran our first Behn Meyer Sustainability Campaign to call on our employees across the globe to share their innovative ideas. Out of the 38 projects submitted, the winning idea came from a Malaysian Agricare team and focused on soil health, much aligned with Behn Meyer’s push towards organic solutions.
One of our flagship innovation projects is our soil improver based on the frass of insect farms. Behn Meyer has teamed up with Singaporean and Malaysian producers who use insect larvae as a protein source for animal nutrition. Behn Meyer procures the farms’ residue, sanitises it, and then fortifies it with organic nutrients. The final product is sold to exotic fruit producers of mango, mangosteen, and durian to help them improve the microbiome of their soil. Through this project, we do not only help insect farming to become residue-free and turn their waste into value, but we also offer a much healthier, non-chemical way to improve fruit quality and yield.
The second prize of the Sustainability Campaign went to the Aquaculture team of Behn Meyer Vietnam. They developed a protease-based enzyme cocktail to hydrolyse dead shrimp after harvest. Typically, dead shrimp are simply buried pondside leading to disease risks and ecological problems. With our enzyme Innovazyme Pro AK, shrimp farmers can now recover protein from dead shrimp, thereby turning waste to value, avoiding the spread of diseases, preventing environmental pollution, and achieving sustainable aquaculture.
Behn Meyer AgriCare has launched a digital app. Can you tell us about other technologies Behn Meyer is introducing?
AgriCare launched an app that we dubbed “your mobile crop doctor” because it allows farmers to get immediate advice from within our network and other farmers based on images of affected crops. The AgriCare app, related Facebook groups, and our newly built demo-farm now constitute a lively community of growers and experts.
Behn Meyer is also looking to introduce drone technology for precision farming. For example, plantations estimate their fertilizer needs based on a standard industry practice of trees per hectare. Here, drones flying over the estates can count the exact number of trees, offering a more realistic picture of how much product is really needed. Rather than selling excess fertilizer, we want to bring this extra service to help customers make savings.
What are the key growth pillars you identify at Behn Meyer?
With agriculture, aquaculture, food and feed ingredients, as well as water treatment and polymers, we are invested in key growth industries. The food industry continues to be one of our central focuses. In 2021, Behn Meyer acquired an Australian food ingredients company whose technologies we will bring to Asia. We also built a factory for meat replacement solutions based on plant fibers and plant proteins used in vegan solutions for burger patties, nuggets, or dumplings – a big trend for Singaporeans. To create the right mouthfeel, we invented vegetable-based extrudates with improved taste and texture. Through our research, we can avoid bitter pea or allergenic soy proteins and successfully replicate a meat-like crunchy texture for vegan products.
What are your key priorities for 2022?
We just launched our first detailed sustainability report, and we will further intensify our sustainability efforts in 2022 because they make good business sense and lead to innovation. We therefore pledged carbon neutrality by 2040, the same year we’ll celebrate Behn Meyer’s 200 years anniversary.