By Suzi Dominy*
It is not enough however just to substitute fishmeal with soy or another plant-based source. The resulting feeds would not contain the right composition or amount of amino acids such as methionine to meet the animals’ needs.
Evonik researchers began looking for a solution to this problem nearly ten years ago, developing special amino acids and amino - acid derivatives for fish and crustaceans aimed at making fishmeal largely unnecessary in aquaculture in the future. The underlying principle is to selectively add amino acids such as methionine and lysine to vegetable - based feeds, improving them to the point where salmon and other marine animals can make optimum use of vegetable proteins as well. The most important task here has been to develop products tailored to the needs of individual fish species. Take salmon, for instance: In 2008, 40 percent of salmon feed was made up of fishmeal, but this figure has since come down to an average of just 10 to 15 percent. Feed manufacturers are already working at full steam to introduce feed concepts that can completely do without fishmeal.
Now, after intensive research, there are plans to transfer this success to shrimp. The challenge here is that the feeding behavior and digestive systems of crustaceans like shrimp are entirely different from those of fish. Evonik researchers have managed to develop an improved source of methionine that shrimp can consume and metabolize at the right time and in the right amount. This new dipeptide consists of two methionine molecules and does not dissolve readily in water, which prevents it from leaching out of the feed as quickly. The shrimp themselves have to cleave the molecule, and this makes the methionine available for protein synthesis at the same time as the other products of digestion. The company is currently putting its first production facility for the new product into operation in Antwerp, Belgium.
This increasing move toward plant-based proteins gives added urgency to recent supply issues in the European Union. Europe’s food and feed safety standards are very high, with approvals granted only after rigorous testing. In fact, the European commission has come under intense pressure from millions of petitioners to abandon talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the ambitious and comprehensive trade and investment agreement being negotiated between the United States and the European Union, which European critics say will undermine food safety and environmental standards. There has long been a strong rejection by the European public of genetic modification, but in the feed industry a reliance on U.S. commodities has increasingly forced a more expedient approach to GM grains.
European feed producers are now deeply concerned about supplies of soy from North America. The EU relies on imports from third countries to cover 75% of its use of protein-rich ingredients for feeding purposes, of which soybean meal is the preferred source. In the light of the EU Commission dragging its feet over approval of three pending GM soybeans, the industry’s feed and grain associations fear severe trade disruptions could happen if no action is taken before the summer break. In June FEFAC, COCERAL and FEDIOL penned an open letter to European Commissioner Juncker. US Soybean associations released a similar call.
The letter pointed out that The European Union cannot afford to ignore the global dimension of commodities trading and supplies: some of these GM traits, it said were already authorized and/or commercialized in key exporting regions to the EU. In particular, the import approval of MON87708 x MON89788 in China, coupled with the early planting season in producing countries is very close to causing severe trade disruptions should this GM soybean not be authorized in the EU before the summer break.
“In absence of a rapid final decision, EU traders may be forced to restrict vital imports of soy due to the increasing risk of finding traces of GM traits yet to be authorized in the EU, which would negatively affect supplies of both GM and non-GM, which in return will only further exacerbate the long-persisting market crisis in key EU livestock sectors”, the letter stated.
COCERAL, FEDIOL and FEFAC noted that the EU Commission had failed over the preceding five months to provide the sound and scientifically justified reasons for the ongoing delay.
Meanwhile, the ever inventive Scots have come up with their own answer: Horizon Protein, a spin off from Heriot - Watt University, is developing a salmon feed from recovered barley protein from pot ale - liquid residue left over from the Scottish whisky - making process. With a higher protein content and better digestibility than soybeans or fishmeal and a consistent supply of some 30,000 tonnes a year, the company’s goal to complete a commercial scale plant at the end of this year and make its first sales in 2017 looks promising. Cheers!
Aquafeed company news
• The BioMar - Sagun fish feed factory in Turkey has successfully run its first test of a full production cycle. Construction of the mill, located in Söke, is close to being finalized. This means locally produced grower feeds for trout, sea bass and sea bream will be available. The more specialized feed types in the BioMar-Sagun product portfolio, like hatchery diets and fry feeds, are being produced on other BioMar factories.
• BioMar Group also recently announced that they are launching a feed containing a new algae ingredient with an extra high marine omega-3 content. The ingredient, produced in Brazil by Terra Via Holdings and Bunge Limited, will provide aquaculture producers with greater and more sustainable access to essential marine omega-3 fatty acids. “Current sustainable and certified sources of omega-3 are limited in terms of volume, be it fish meal and oil or krill meal,” explained Jan Sverre Røsstad, BioMar’s Vice President of North Sea. “We are very excited that our collaboration with TerraVia and Bunge has put us in a position to draw on yet another sustainable source of omega-3. Our hope is that this move on our part can contribute to the continued growth of our industry.”
• Marine Harvest Scotland Ltd. announced plans to build a high technology salmon feed mill on the Isle of Skye. The new Euro 33.5 million (approximately US37.96 million) plant, to be designed by Denmark-based Graintec A/S will produce 170,000 tons a year. The mill will supply feed for Scotland and other Marine Harvest sites in the North Atlantic region. Production will start in summer 2018.
• A new Fish Nutrition Research Unit has opened at the WorldFish Abbassa Research Center, in Egypt. The facility will focus on tilapia nutrition and testing of new, local fish feed ingredients, including agricultural by-products. The launch is the result of a partnership between WorldFish and Skretting. Egypt is the world’s second largest producer of farmed tilapia. With fish production expected to grow to reach 2 million tonnes in 2020, there is a need to support increased production efficiency and profitability, in order to maintain the sector’s sustainability into the future. The partnership also entails the construction of an advanced trial unit with a recirculation system aiming to intensify production combined with the most efficient use of water.
• In a move that surprised many, Biotech Company Alltech bought Dutch feed manufacturer Coppens International. For almost 24 years Coppens International has earned a strong reputation for being an innovative, high-quality aquafeed producer. The company’s specialties include temperate and tropical marine and freshwater diets for a variety of juvenile and adult species. The company also produces ornamental, specialty and bait feeds. Coppens International’s distribution network is spread across more than 60 countries, including the Netherlands, France, Germany and Australia. Coppens International products are sold to fish producers via direct sales or through distributor and dealer channels.
• Cargill’s EWOS brand continues to make measurable progress in its key sustainability indicators, according to its annual sustainability report. Over the last 10 years EWOS has reduced the marine index dramatically from 55 percent in 2005 to 27 percent in 2015, while at the same time increasing feed production by 70 percent. In 2015, EWOS was for the first time able to provide feed that gives salmon farmers the opportunity to be net producers of marine protein and marine oil. In 2015, 32 percent of the marine ingredients used in EWOS feeds were from fish trimmings. That is an increase of almost 10 percent in five years. This raw material has become available as a result of supplier development programs and screening from Cargill Innovation.
Suzi Dominy is the founding editor and publisher of aquafeed.com. She brings 25 years of experience in professional feed industry journalism and publishing. Before starting this company, she was co-publisher of the agri-food division of a major UK-based company, and editor of their major international feed magazine for 13 years.