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PLAMAN draws $20m from Goldman Sachs to develop high-value feed additive

New natural and organic feed additive company PLAMAN Global has secured the first instalment of its debut funding round.

The company received $20 million investment from Goldman Sachs – funding it will use to build its workforce and advance ongoing trials. Rob Aukerman, PLAMAN's president of animal nutrition and health, said the firm has also mandated Goldman Sachs' investment banking division as its exclusive financial advisor as it sources further funds.

Named after its founders Peter Plakidis and Geordie Manolas, who have extensive experience in agriculture, mining, finance and investment banking, PLAMAN is developing a natural feed additive called Black Pearl. The product is derived from black diatomaceous earth, which is formed of fossilized remains of small aquatic organisms called diatoms.

The product is mined from its only known large-scale deposit – a quarry in Central Otago, New Zealand owned by PLAMAN with reserves of 31 million tons.

Mr Aukerman told Animal Pharm diatomaceous earth is used across a range of industries, including human health. It is also approved for use in animal feeds in many countries. However, PLAMAN's source is very unique as it is rich in organic matter, including humic and fulvic acid.

The company's mining and processing facilities will be located in New Zealand and will create more than 100 jobs. The New Zealand operation will be led by general manager Craig Pilcher, who has extensive mining operations experience. The firm claims to have an operational life of "at least 27 years". This forecast is based on anticipated production volumes of the deposit.

PLAMAN's initial trial work has demonstrated the additive delivers significant value by improving feed quality and gastro-intestinal health, thereby providing significant economic benefits for producers. It may also reduce the need for antibiotics.

Trials so far

PLAMAN is currently looking to produce Black Pearl across all species. Its trial work to date has been in pigs and poultry. However, Mr Aukerman said dairy and beef cattle are next on the agenda, with aquaculture and companion animals further down the line.

The company has already confirmed "outstanding" efficacy in a 42-day study for Black Pearl in broiler chickens and similar results in a swine trial. Additional trials in turkeys and layer chickens are ongoing.

"It's a unique product that is very rich in organic matter," Mr Aukerman explained. "In our studies, we've seen better than pharma-like results. The trial results have been off the charts."

Commercial strategy being built

Mr Aukerman joined PLAMAN in December 2017, bringing the firm over 34 years of experience in the animal health industry. He spent nearly 25 years with Elanco, where his most recent roles were president of North American commercial operations and head of new business strategy and development.

In addition to running the North American division, Mr Aukerman helped Elanco grow in new business areas such as companion animals, aquaculture, vaccines and enzymes. He also played a role in establishing the commercial organization for the firm’s nutritional health business unit. In his new role at PLAMAN, he is developing a commercial strategy and building the team that will execute it.

This team includes Mr Aukerman's ex-Elanco colleague Jose Cardenas, who is PLAMAN's vice president of commercialization strategy. Mr Cardenas has 28 years’ experience in animal health and was most recently senior director of global poultry marketing at Elanco. He joined PLAMAN in March.

"It is a very exciting time for natural health products," Mr Aukerman noted. "All of the big animal health businesses are trying to develop this space as the clean food movement has caused pharmaceuticals and antibiotics to come under a lot of scrutiny. It's the right time for our product. It's natural, it's non-antibiotic and it has broad applications.

"At the moment, we're building our data package and calling on integrators and producers about conducting demonstration trials. There's not a complicated regulatory pathway for this product, as diatomaceous earth is already approved for use in animal feeds in many geographies. All of us at PLAMAN are very excited because we believe our product will add tremendous value to the industry."

PLAMAN intends to export Black Pearl to all major worldwide markets through its own sales team.


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