By Suzi Dominy*
Slow feed development for emerging tropical marine fish
Dr. Daniel Benetti is a Professor and the Director of Aquaculture at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. He caused quite a stir when comments he made at a recent USSEC meeting on the problem with aquafeeds for tropical marine fish were widely reported in the trade press. Aquafeed.com talked to Dr. Benetti, to learn what he meant. He made some interesting points:
“Most ‘specialized’ feeds targeted at, and widely sold for emerging tropical marine fish species such as cobia, grouper, pompano, snapper, Seriola - to name a few - are considered ‘black boxes’ because the nutritional requirements and the digestibility of ingredients used for formulating and manufacturing the feeds for these species are mostly unknown”, he said. “On the top of that, 90% of the ingredients used for manufacturing the feeds for these species are commodities and changed according to price and availability. It’s not uncommon to even visually note obvious differences among different batches of the ‘same’ feed manufactured to contain the same crude protein and crude fat content, for example.”
Benetti noted that it is not only different species that have different nutritional requirements, most of which are still unknown, but even the same species will change their requirements at different developmental stages. The little that’s known about requirements and digestibility of ingredients for these tropical marine fish species is based on studies of small fish, juveniles, which utilize a small portion of the overall feed in terms of tonnage and cost (80% of the total feeds is used during the growout stages), Benetti said. As a consequence, since the nutritional requirements of the fish being raised are not being met, their aquaculture performance in terms of growth, feed conversion and survival is poor. Thus, new operations raising marine fish in the region are losing money primarily because of the high costs of the feeds, high FCRs, and poor fish health, said Benetti: “With FCRs above 2 (often above 2.5) and feeds costs above USD$2 per kg, the numbers simply don’t work”.
“Bottom line is the feeds companies are not investing enough resources into R&D to improve their ‘specialized’ products for new species. In fact, it’s not that the producers must develop their own feeds, but it’s the companies producing new emerging species are the ones investing resources in nutritional studies to develop better feeds.”
Benetti said this was understandable, because - unlike salmon, tilapia, carp and shrimp, for example, where the market is huge and lots of resources have been invested in R&D to get to the excellent standards they’ve reached with feeds - there’s a perception that the market for feeds for new emerging species such as cobia, snapper and pompano is still relatively small. “In reality, the market in the region has already grown to about USD$20 million a year and continues to grow,” he said.
“This is surprising because it’s well known that R&D pays off. Indeed, as discussed during the workshop, the one company that invested in research to determine digestibility of ingredients for a tropical marine fish species has capitalized 10 fold on their investment in less than two years”.
Benetti was referring to Biomar, an aquafeed company that’s investing resources in R&D and has its nutritionists working in collaboration with academics and the private sector to study the nutritional requirements and digestibility of ingredients of emerging species of tropical marine fish.
An Additive in Aquafeed
Technology with Triple Benefits
Scientists at Nofima have developed a process additive with triple benefits: it functions as a binding agent, has high nutritional value, and makes it easier to produce fish feed with good physical properties.
The additive can contribute to reducing the loss of feed in the aquaculture industry, and make the production of feed more energy-efficient. The process additive is a protein-based solution that can be manufactured from marine raw materials or plant proteins.
Approximately 1.5 million tonnes of feed are used for Norwegian farmed salmon every year. All of this feed is blown through long tubes into the fish cages, and it is extremely important, therefore, that the feed is manufactured to withstand the mechanical load it experiences. If this is not the case, the feed breaks up into small particles and dust, which the fish cannot eat, and the dust may also clog the feed-supply system. The loss in such feed delivery systems lies in the range 0.3-1.5%, which corresponds to an additional annual cost of between NOK 40 and 200 million. In order to reduce the loss, the feed must be homogeneous and have good physical properties.
PhD student Tor Andreas Samuelsen at the Nofima Feed Technology Centre in Bergen has studied how the loss can be reduced by measures taken during feed processing. The principal goal of the project has been to divide fishmeal into its components, identify which of these influences the extruder, and determine their significance for the physical properties of the final fish feed.
Fishmeal Alternative to be launched in the UK and Norway in 2018
California, USA-based sustainable life science firm Calysta, Inc. has announced plans to launch a proven new fish feed ingredient produced by a microbial culture with natural gas as the sole nutrition and energy source.
FeedKind™ Protein is expected to be introduced to the Scottish and Norwegian aquaculture sectors in 2018.
FeedKind Protein is a microbial protein that provides a cost-competitive alternative to conventional fishmeal. The protein, produced with minimal land and water use, is non-GMO and approved in the EU for all fish and livestock species.
Alan Shaw, Ph.D., President and CEO, said: “FeedKind Protein can replace fishmeal and soy protein with a nutritious, naturally occurring protein, and offer consumers a new option that is sustainable and healthy. It can also contribute to the aquaculture industry’s need for sustainable products to meet increasing global demand for new sources of protein.”
FeedKind Protein will be manufactured using a natural proprietary fermentation process, a production method similar to that used to produce yeast-extract sandwich spreads. Studies have confirmed FeedKind Protein’s nutritional value, based on criteria such as animal growth and health. Calysta expects to introduce FeedKind™ Aqua first for the aquaculture industry, to be followed by additional FeedKind products for the livestock market.
Calysta is reviving the production of proven methane to feed technology BioProtein – a fishmeal alternative for use in aquaculture and animal nutrition that has hit several bumps along the road to market.
Calysta, a US developer of natural gas conversion technology using methane for fuel and chemicals, bought Norway based, BioProtein A/S, in May last year.
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.