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Ensuring Ingredient Quality Using NIR Technology: PIA Part I

In 2016, Insta-Pro International® launched the Portable Ingredient Analyzer (PIA) as a quality control tool that allows soy plant operators to rapidly analyze their raw and processed ingredients and make real-time processing decisions to ensure meal quality.

The PIA uses near-infrared technology (NIR) to provide immediate analysis of soy products as described here and here. There are many applications for this type of technology.

One of the biggest challenges with today’s feed ingredient market are the inconsistencies between batches of ingredients. For example, soybean meal quality can vary or change based on many factors, including: geographical region, seasonality, and method of processing. According to this journal article, there can be differences in the amount of total protein and amino acids, namely lysine, between soybeans grown in North America versus South America. Understanding these variations in raw soybeans can help the meal processor make adjustments prior to processing to ensure quality meal.

While it is difficult to control factors such as region and seasonality of the soybean, choosing the appropriate processing method may assist in controlling the quality of the feed. Soy processed by high-shear dry extrusion can provide a consistent, high-quality soymeal. The high-shear dry extrusion process is easy to control and maintain, however, when there are changes in the raw soybeans due to seasonality or region, certain adjustments need to be made to the equipment to maintain proper cook and pressing of the meal.

Insta-Pro’s PIA NIR tool was designed to give processors real-time information on both the raw soybean and ExPress® meal. Processors can compare this data to adjust the equipment before starting processing and make necessary adjustments during the process to produce high-quality ExPress® meal.

Dr. Dave Albin highlighted a field example here in which a commercial high-shear dry extrusion/mechanical oil pressing plant used the PIA to monitor ExPress® meal. There was a short 48-hour window where ExPress® meal protein levels were lower than expected. The meal protein would peak at 48%, then drop to 41% within a 48-hour window of the production run. Both oil and moisture levels increased in the meal. Highlighted in the box below, both moisture and oil increased, while meal protein decreased. A plausible explanation is the extruder temperature dropped, resulting in changes of the meal quality. Eventually, the meal protein increased while moisture and oil decreased suggesting adjustments to the extruder temperature were made.

When soybeans are not extruded at the recommended temperature anti-nutrients are not properly deactivated. In addition, the higher residual oil value changed the feeding value of the meal processed during the 48-hour window. Through continuous monitoring of the ingredients, the processor can produce consistent high-quality ExPress® meal and in turn, make the nutritionist happy.

ExPress® soymeal, when processed properly, provides a consistent quality source of digestible amino acids and energy. The PIA can be used as a part of the quality control tools for the processing plant.