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Bühler improves profitability in 2023, cautiously optimistic about the aquafeed industry in 2024

“We find many customers who are planning to retrofit their plants,” Chao Luan, head of Market Segment Aqua at Bühler Group, told

Bühler's headquarters. Credits: Bühler
February 13, 2024

In 2023, Bühler successfully navigated a complex and volatile global landscape and increased its profitability. The equity ratio also further improved. As an innovative solution provider, the company benefited from many opportunities and gained market share from transitions in its key markets. In local currencies, turnover grew strongly, and orders improved slightly. With a high order book of CHF 2.0 billion, Bühler is well positioned for 2024. “We are satisfied with the outcome of 2023 and have proved again that we are a reliable partner in this dynamic world,” said Bühler CEO Stefan Scheiber.

Main trends in the aquafeed industry in 2023

2023 was a challenging year for the aquafeed industry. “Due to inflation in the United States and Europe and the economy's slowdown in several markets, the demand for aquatic food decreased, which caused the global feed production volume to register a significant decline,” Chao Luan, head of Market Segment Aqua at Bühler Group, told

“The biggest aquafeed market, China, saw an overall volume decrease of around 5%. Other main markets in Asia, such as Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh, suffered from declining consumption within the shrimp sector and the competition from Ecuador. The biggest aquafeed producer in Africa, Egypt, is also the main tilapia feed producer in the world. In 2023, the tilapia feed production in Egypt shrunk, too,” Luan explained.

Nevertheless, the company still sees that the industry is looking for sustainable, more intelligent, and digitalized solutions. “Aquafeed producers are actively looking for novel protein resources to substitute the usage of fishmeal. They are searching for equipment and technologies that have higher production efficiency and less energy consumption,” Luan stated.

Improving the efficiency of aquafeed production in 2024

Bühler is cautiously optimistic about the global aquafeed market in 2024. “The challenging market in 2023 will impact the industry in 2024, especially the first half of the year. Most farms have decreased the scale of aquaculture farming due to the weak consumer market, which leads to fewer aquafeed projects compared to 2023 and the years before. Globally, we do not see that the industry needs many new aquafeed plants in 2024. However, we find many customers who are planning to retrofit their plants so that they can improve production efficiency, produce various kinds of aquafeed to create new business opportunities, or incorporate the latest technologies in automation and digitalization,” Luan said.

Bühler is continuously developing new solutions to reduce the energy consumption of production plants and the CO2e footprint, be it by using more local/regional raw materials but also by supporting customers in managing yield and waste.

“Bühler has complete experience in producing aquafeed for all farmed species which can be fed by pellets. We also have collaborated with several customers to develop digital solutions that are suitable for the aqua industry. All our extensive know-how and long experience in the aquafeed industry can be applied in retrofitting projects, supporting our customers, with their specific budgets, to improve the production efficiency of aquafeed plants,” Luan stated.

Services have become even more important for customers

Services continued to be a key strategic pillar in 2023, as they are the fastest lever to improve the productivity and consequently also the sustainability of Bühler customers’ operations by minimizing energy, waste, and water. Bühler’s Customer Service business grew by 1.2% amounting to CHF 966 million, representing a 32% share of Group turnover.

Balanced global business footprint

While the economic environment differed strongly across key markets, Bühler’s balanced geographical footprint allowed the company to benefit from market expansions and thus offset lower business volumes in other markets. The most notable developments were strong turnover growth in the Americas and significantly lower turnover volumes in China. Overall, Bühler’s regional share of turnover was as follows: Americas 29%, Europe 28%, Asia 27%, Middle East Africa and India 16%.

Innovation as a key success factor

In 2023, expenses for R&D remained at a high level at CHF 140 million (4.7% of turnover) and around 50 new customer solutions were launched. “We see profitable growth as a prerequisite for creating a positive impact for a better world. This conviction guides our investments in the future development of our company, into innovative products and services, as well as in the development, education, and training of people,” said Scheiber.

In 2023, Bühler focused on the further implementation of its sustainability strategy. The highest impact Bühler can thereby create is with its customer solutions (Scope 3). In this respect, Bühler has committed to having solutions ready to multiply by 2025 that reduce energy, waste, and water by 50% in the value chains of customers. For its own operations (Scopes 1 and 2), it has developed a pathway to achieve a 60% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. By the end of 2023, Bühler achieved a reduction of nearly 20% compared to the 2019 baseline.

Training and education

In 2023, Bühler continued to focus on training and education of both customers and employees. Customers not only benefited from training at different specialist schools on all continents but also from the broad offering of courses in the 25 Application & Training Centers around the world. With the opening of new locations in Brazil and Switzerland in 2023, Bühler added further to its capability to support its customers along complete value chains, from recipe development to final product development, and industrial scaling.

For its nearly 12,500 employees, Bühler built on its programs for development and lifelong learning. These enable its people to adapt and develop the skills needed to keep pace with a quickly changing and increasingly challenging work environment. Part of the concept is the Bühler Energy Center in Uzwil, Switzerland, which was opened in June. It contains three pillars: Health & Lifestyle, focusing on health management; Lifelong Learning, focusing on vocational and adult learning; and Prototyping & Production, focusing on new manufacturing technologies. In 2023, Bühler trained 544 apprentices globally, 293 of whom are in Switzerland.