Quality feed from sprouted seeds

Press release / March 02, 1998

Grain and sprouts have the potential to improve the quality of animal feedstuffs they contain all of the essential nutrients and minerals in a digestible form. A new germination procedure will enable sprouts to be produced on a large scale under controlled conditions.

Grain, corn and the seeds of other plants are the most common additives to animal feed throughout the world. Because the crops are so easy to grow, feedstuff manufacturers would like to increase their proportion in their formulations. But, although seeds have a high caloric value and contain all required nutrients, they can only provide limited nourishment. Their mineral content is partially bound in a form that the organism is not capable of absorbing, and certain essential constituents are not present at all. To ensure that animals receive all the ingredients of a well-balanced diet to promote their growth, it is necessary to add various supplements such as amino acids or minerals like zinc or phosphate. It would be simpler, and more expedient from the nutritional point of view, to feed animals with freshly sprouted grains rather than raw seeds. Sprouts have a superior balance of nutrients by comparison with gerrminated seeds. But until now it was not possible to produce sufficient quantities off fast-growing sprouts under controlled conditions.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB (Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology) are developing a regulated system to control the biochemical processes which take place in seeds during germination. The control processes are now being automated in a production facility. As explained by Dr. Manfred-Karl Otto of IGB, "By selecting suitable levels of temperature, humidity and air volume, we can produce specific germination stages of wheat and other cereals. We intend to carry out feeding trials to determine the ideal stages for each type of grain". Using this method, the scientists are able to manufacture sprouts in batches of 100 kg.

The controlled production of sprouts brings a number of advantages. Reducing the quantity of supplements such as phosphate, zinc and vitamins in animal feed not only saves costs but also has a beneficial effect on the environment, by reducing the nitrogen and phosphate content of farmyard manure. There are also other, quite different, potential applications in the pharmaceuticals branch. The metabolically active sprouts are the source of valuable, previously unexploited materials: their contents include antibiotics, protease inhibitors and differentiation factors.