Canada -- University of Saskatchewan nas appointed Tom Scott as the school's new Research Chair in Feed Processing Technology. After 26 years of studying, teaching and working abroad, the native of Landis -- who holds a PhD in science -- returned to Saskatchewan earlier this year to take a prestigious job at the University of Saskatchewan.
Tom Scott answered five questions about his role in an interview this week.
SP: What's your professional background?
TS: I have a agricultural bachelor's degree originally from the University of Saskatchewan, and then I did a master's degree in genetics at McGill University in Montreal and then I worked for seven years in various capacities, part of which was doing extension work for the poultry producers in Saskatchewan.
Then I went to the University of Sydney and did my PhD. I came back to Canada, to the University of Alberta, for a post-doc position, went back to Australia to do a research associate position, came back to Nova Scotia with Ag Canada and then from there transferred to British Columbia. At one point in time I was the only poultry scientist left at Agriculture Canada after the cutbacks in the late '90s and early 2000s.
Then I was offered a professor's position . . . at the University of Sydney and I went back there. Then I was offered a position as the research director for Provimi, which is a Dutch company -- and Provimi stands for protein, vitamins and minerals.
I did that for four years and then this position came up. It's a Research Chair in Feed Processing Technology and now I will be working with all species and understanding particularly how the different aspects of processing will influence the added-value for feed for animals.
SP: When did your interest in animal feed begin?
TS: Very early, actually. I actually started out interested in genetics, but then I realized that most of the jobs were in feeding animals.
It accounts for about 60 to 70 per cent of our cost of production for animals, so feed is a very important component. Small differences in feed efficiency or preventing feed wastage are billions of dollars for the worldwide industry.
SP: What does a Research Chair in Feed Processing Technology do?
TS: That's a good question. Right now I'm trying to establish a research program to come up with ways to use and manage the feed equipment that we do have for doing various processing conditions.
Also, I'll be responsible for training post-graduate students and under-graduate students, working with the industry directly to answer questions that they have, working with the suppliers of feed grains and all the byproducts that we produce here, such as canola meal and those types of products, and being able to be convert those into feed.
I think the best illustration is that we've always used animals to feed very poor-quality materials to and convert it into very good-quality food.
SP: How important is feed to the agriculture sector?
TS: Within Canada it's about
60 per cent of cost of production for meat, milk or eggs. It's over
$4 billion worth of sales in Canada a year and that's probably about one per cent of the world's production of feed.
A lot of countries buy our cereal grains to produce feed from it as well as our canola meal and potentially the byproduct from the bio-ethanol industry. We produce
30 million metric tonnes of feed a year and that's about 20 per cent of the total grain produced in Canada, so it's a big user.
SP: What will be the next big development in feed?
TS: I think one area in particular we will be focusing on is which eco-setting conditions -- which temperature, which moisture, which pressure -- are needed for which feed.
Even within wheat we may have different applications, and near infra-red reflectance technology is a system we now use for grading all grain in the elevators.
There's a possibility of having that in-line so as feed is coming into a feed plant it would pick up the differences and tell you what other ingredients to put in there to make it very balanced. It could also tell us which processing conditions we should apply to get the optimum feed out of that batch of grain.
And there's one other really, really neat thing that has just come up on the radar screen very recently and that is technology from Sweden that has the capacity to take individual seeds and sort them on either protein or moisture or starch level and sort each individual seed into different categories --and it can do this at 20,000 to 30,000 seeds a second.
That's equivalent to about 30 tonnes every hour, and that's what a medium-sized feed mill would actually be processing for feed every hour, 24 hours a day. It could sort it into discreet categories for different processing, but it could also sort it into low-quality for feed and then sell the high-quality grains for food consumption at a much higher price. This will change how we do agriculture.