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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — It all began in 1945 when Larry Ehlert, a former Cargill salesman, took a $2,500 loan and purchased St. Joseph Feed and Supply Co. on Packers Avenue in St. Joseph, across from the stockyards. He started his own brand, Ehlert’s Guaranteed Feeds.

Just over a decade later, Ehlert started the “Vita Ferm System” with a key component called Amaferm, a direct-fed microbial that was discovered in 1943 and patented by H.E. Kistner Sr. in 1959. It is an extract produced from a select strain of the fungi, Aspergillus oryzae.

In 1968, Larry Ehlert purchased the patent and the rights to Amaferm and founded BioZyme Enterprises Inc. In 1978, the name was changed to BioZyme Inc., and the location moved to its present-day location on Stockyards Expressway. Amaferm has been the key ingredient in every product that BioZyme has ever produced.

Today, BioZyme Inc. continues to serve the agriculture industry as an innovator in the fields of animal nutrition and microbiology. The company offers a complete line of high-quality vitamin, mineral, trace mineral and protein supplements with what they call the “Amaferm advantage — a precision prebiotic that promotes feed and water intake, increases feed digestibility and maximizes nutrient absorption. Today, Amaferm has more than 100 published research studies on its mode of action, impact on digestion and its increase in animal performance.”

“BioZyme is committed to developing innovative products that support sustainability in livestock production, so the next generation of young people have the opportunity to go to work in their passion, the family farm,” said Lisa Norton, president and chief operating officer.

AO-Biotics, a “sibling” to Amaferm, was discovered in 2016 by Ignacio Ipharraguerre, Ph.D. Although closely related to Amaferm, he explained, “AO-Biotics has a different mode of action that allows it to target the intestine to assist with gut health and overall immunity.”

Ipharraguerre grew up in Argentina, where he was exposed to agriculture through his parents who were John Deere dealers. He studied in Argentina and came to the U.S. in the late 1990s, where he went to school to study nutrition in dairy cattle. Today he wears two hats, one is serving as the director of research and innovation for BioZyme. The other is a professor at the Institute of Human Nutrition and Food Science in Kiel, Germany.

“Aspergillus belongs to a group of fungi that grows in your bread and makes mold,” explained Ipharraguerre, as he showed a diagram of the microscopic creature. “The aspergillus is the building block, the power house. Amaferm is a precision prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying the nutrient supply for maximum performance. It promotes intake, increases digestibility and maximizes nutrient absorption.

“The way we are living, we are losing some key elements of the ecosystem. This decrease in diversity deprives us of the microorganisms that are essential for health and wellbeing. Amaferm is the whole biomass. It has different stages of fermentation and through those processes the biomass is produced. When you put that biomass in an animal, it stimulates the gut microbiota,” he explained, as he shared an illustration that shows the branching of fungi to assist in the breakdown of the forage/fiber. He said the increase in fungal branching allows for more attachment sites for the good bacteria to digest provided nutrients.

As BioZyme look towards the future of their products, Ipharraguerre said, “We will continue to be very much interested in the gut and understanding how it works and what it does for us and for animals and people.”

“Care that comes full circle is how we like to do business at BioZyme,” Norton said. “If you care for someone, something or actually anything, that care will eventually come full circle and care for you. If you believe in this enough to take the first step of care, there will be a boomerang back.”

Kerry Hoffschneider can be reached at