Fungus Farming Pioneers

Aug 24

A species of termite found in Nigeria farms fungi in climate controlled underground gardens. Alltech is very familiar with this termite technology. The process, known as solid state fermentation (SSF) has been shown to help maximize the bioavailability of nutrients in animal feed by releasing more energy, calcium and available phosphorus from the plant fibers. While Alltech was the first to adapt this technology for the animal health industry, the company was not the first to use this unique process.

Around many areas of Nigeria, you will see many strange, earthen mounds. Some can tower almost 20 feet above ground! If you were to take a look inside one of these mounds, you would find millions of termites working in synergy with fungi to sustain and support their colony. These tall mounds serve as a nice shelter for the termites, and also play another role in their food preparation. Much like Alltech's SSF process, these mounds act as climate controlled chambers that provide an ideal environment for the fungi. Unlike some termites, Nigerian termites are unable to digest the fiber rich plant materials they bring to the mound to eat. They have to consume and excrete the material. After excretion, a specific fungal strain, originating from their DNA, begins to grow on the excreted matter. This creates a fungus garden, in which enzymes secreted by the fungus break down the fiber and release the nutrients. Then the lucky termites can eat and digest the fungus / fiber mixture.

Alltech's SSF technology, gave rise to Allzyme SSF. We select a specific fungal strain, aspergillus niger, which is then applied to a fibrous substrate and cultivated in humidity and temperature controlled chambers. While in these chambers the fungal strain grows and creates enzymes that break down the substrate. The finished product helps farmers get all the available nutrients out of their animal's feed.

We are faced with a growing global population that has to be fed. The world is asking the agriculture industry to produce more with less. As the world strives to meet global demand, we must remember some of the solutions to many of our problems may just be hidden under a rock... or maybe in a mound.

If you have any questions regarding the termites or Allzyme SSF, please feel free to contact us at allzymessf@alltech.com.

 

 

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