Welcome to the first in a series of interviews introducing you to the people behind Humanativ. We’re kicking off the series with a Q&A with our CEO, Derek Gaffney. We hope you enjoy hearing more about Humanativ and the expertise within our team.
Derek, can you tell us more about Humanativ, what is it?
The name Humanativ comes from the idea of, ‘advanced animal nutrition for the benefit of human health’. We’ve all heard of the saying ‘you are what you eat’ but there’s a new, more modern saying, ‘you are what you eat, eats’. This means by focusing on the diet of the animal, we can improve both animal and human health. A ‘One Health Approach’ – that’s what Humanativ is all about.
At Humanativ we have expertise in the development and production of algal oil which is rich in omega-3 DHA. This is an essential micro-nutrient for human and animal health. We also have expertise in the utilisation of the algal oil in the diet of the animal to enrich the meat and eggs they produce in a natural and sustainable way.
What is the solution Humanativ is bringing to the market?
Through Humanativ, we seek to be a trusted partner of the food supply industry – helping to deliver naturally enriched omega-3 DHA meat and eggs with proven health benefits for consumers. We sell our algal oil product – OmegaPro, but also the expertise of how to enrich the diet of the animals to deliver enriched meat and eggs to a level that allows on-pack claims in many markets.
What do you mean by a ‘Trusted Partner’?
At Humanativ, we don’t just sell the OmegaPro product and walk away. We also offer our expertise throughout the enrichment and validation process. We partner with our customers in a project management style arrangement which creates a trusting relationship, working to deliver the solution together.
Humanativ is a joint venture between Devenish and Mara Renewables Corporation – could you tell us a bit about the partnership and how it was formed?
Mara Renewables Corporation and Devenish have a long history of working together and this joint venture formalises our long-standing relationship.
Mara is a Canadian based company, with expertise in the production of algal oil which is rich in omega-3 DHA. Mara is involved in what they call the human direct industry; they produce the agal oil for things like algal oil capsules, and for infant baby formula which are all enriched with omega-3 DHA for cognitive development.
Devenish has significant experience in animal nutrition and enrichment; strengthened by human health studies and experience of on-pack claims. A world-first clinical trial which Devenish commissioned in 2017, delivered by researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, has shown that the regular consumption of naturally enriched omega-3 chicken and eggs can help lower blood pressure which is associated with cognitive and cardiovascular health benefits.
Our team at Humanativ can draw upon this knowledge and experience, to help our customers deliver better health for the animal and more nutrient rich food for the consumer.
Mara and Devenish are a match made in heaven. By coming together, we were able to combine our expertise and create an ‘A to Z’ solution for our customers. We can focus on the nutrition of the animal and bring it right through to human health in an affordable and accessible way.
Derek, could you tell us a bit more about yourself and how you got to where you are today?
I’m the son of a dairy farmer, from Kilkenny in Ireland. I worked on the family farm from a young age and continued throughout college and even in my early working years, I would still have helped milk the cows at the weekends. I loved the physical nature of the farm; I was into sport, so it suited me to have a physical job at the weekend as well.
Coming from a farming background, I went on to study Agricultural Science at University College Dublin, in the last two years my electives focused on animal nutrition and specifically ruminant nutrition. After college, I got a job in a major food company in Ireland called Glanbia Foods, where I worked for 22 years. I worked in the animal nutrition section, but I was exposed to the food section as well, this is where I saw first-hand the link between animal nutrition, human nutrition and health, and developed a keen interest in the link between them.
When the opportunity came up at Devenish to get involved in Humanativ, it was an opportunity I could not turn down. The idea that we can be involved in a purpose driven business that can have a global impact on human health inspires us all.
Tell us about the team at Humanativ
As Humanativ is a joint venture company which has developed out of Devenish and Mara we benefit from expertise from both companies. Mara provides the knowledge and expertise in the production of algal oil and the patents and certification to support it. Devenish brings the expertise in animal nutrition and the scientific research into enriching meat and eggs with omega-3 DHA, including the human health trials.
At Humanativ, we put together a small but expert team to utilise the expertise from the two companies. We have experts in research and development, food innovation, nutrition and commercial sales, marketing, and then we have experts in the usual business functions like finance and operations. As we grow and expand into new geographical locations, we will be hiring local expertise to help tell our story and support our customers.
What is Humanativ’s purpose?
80% of the world’s population is deficient in omega-3 DHA and at Humanativ our mission is to change that.
Our global ambition is that consumers around the world can have access to this essential micro-nutrient across a range of commonly eaten foods, that are affordable and accessible to all.
We believe this is the only way we will reduce the deficit in global omega-3 levels. This will positively impact the individual, their family, community, the area, nationally and internationally. By focusing on illness prevention by nutrition, we can reduce national health budgets for the treatment of chronic disease.
Like every journey it starts with one step, we’re not only speaking with the food industry, but also NGOs and governments, explaining the importance of omega-3 DHA and our solution which is a very small cost to the industry, but will have a major effect on public health.
As a new venture, what is the vision or aspirations for the next 3 years?
At Humanativ we have a global vision to reduce the deficit in global omega-3 levels by providing access to this essential micro-nutrient across a range of commonly eaten foods, that are affordable and accessible to all. Over the next three years we want to realise this by branching into new geographical areas and partnering with likeminded companies that are as passionate about this as we are. We’re currently having some exciting discussions with major players across multiple markets and hope to see products enriched with our solution on the shelves soon.
In your role you carry a lot of responsibility and a busy workload, how do you manage your work life balance, do you have any hobbies or interests that keep you busy in your spare time?
I grew up playing a lot of sport and came to understand the benefits of regular exercise for both physical and mental health. Nowadays, I dabble in a lot of different exercise, but I have one routine which I do daily which helps me get work and life into perspective.
I live close to the sea, so every morning I get up early and head down the shore where I do some light exercise. There I observe nature, the birds arriving in the spring. Swans, terns, gulls and ducks come, build their nests, have their babies, fish, feed their young, teach them to fly and forage for themselves. Then, when autumn turns to winter, they leave again. I know they will return in springtime. When I’m watching this, all the stress and long ‘to do’ lists fade into obscurity and perspective descends. I am then ready for the workday and am better able to prioritise.
Exercise – Nutrition – Perspective – Health = The key to a happy life.