By Suzi Dominy*
How will we replace fishmeal and oil?
By now, we all know that the nature of aquafeed is undergoing rapid change. Fishmeal and fish oil, once staple ingredients, are now seen as unsustainable, and the race to replace them is well underway. A recent report published by the Norwegian research institute, Nofima, shows that at least 70 per cent of the raw materials in feed comes from plant sources.
Most of these raw materials, such as soy protein concentrate, maize protein, and canola oil, have been included in salmon feeds for the past 15 years. Researchers in Canada say the best match to the fatty acid composition of fish oil is oil from a plant called camelina, a member of the mustard family, a distant relative to canola. After four years of studies, approval by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is pending. However, although camelina oil comes close to matching fish oil, it is missing two key fatty acids: ETA and DHA. So even if you replaced most of the fish oil with camelina oil, you would still need to put a little bit of fishmeal and fish oil in the diet, the researchers say.
Algae is much touted as a potential alternative to fish oil replacement but investment is needed to scale up algae oil production to meet the demand from aquaculture. Global production of algal Omega 3 in 2014 only reached some 1,400 metric tonnes (MT) - and almost all of that targeted the higher profit margins of the human supplement market.
Research into Single Cell Protein (SCP) goes back decades. In the 1960s BP Nutrition launched an SCP product into the feed market and researchers began looking at bacteria, yeast, fungi and algae to produce protein biomass. SCPs have not really taken off, but perhaps now the time is right. The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) is investigating how fibers from Norway’s famous coniferous trees can be converted into yeast to create aquafeed. NMBU says the yeast can replace 40 per cent of fishmeal in Atlantic salmon. At the commercial level, Nutrinsic Corp opened a 5,000 metric tons production facility located with MillerCoors brewery’s water reclamation facility in May. Through a patented process, the facility creates an ecosystem where bacteria can thrive and convert nutrients into a protein ingredient. This ingredient has been successfully tested with a variety of aquatic and terrestrial animals, according to the company.
Insects hold the promise of providing a real answer to fishmeal replacement, and one that arguably poses the most natural solution… if it can just get through the approval process. The long awaited European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)’s Scientific Opinion on the potential risks associated with using insects as feed has just been published. Their conclusion was that more research is needed.
The EC-funded PROteINSECT project is currently running feeding trials in Europe, China and Africa, Results of the project’s on-going work into assessing chemical, allergy and microbiological risks from insects and the substrates on which they are fed will be communicated over the coming months and will contribute to the development of a White Paper to be placed before the European Parliament to support the ongoing debate concerning regulation and legislation that will drive the use of insect protein in feed.
Changes in the ingredient profile of aquafeeds not only effects the price tag and the formulation of the feed, it effects the way it needs to be processed. The Research Council of Norway has been quick to understand this and has awarded $3.7 million for the establishment of The Aquafeed Technology Centre in Bergen - a joint initiative with the Norwegian food research institute Nofima, the University of Bergen, Uni Research and the University of Nottingham, U.K. Dr. Mari Moren, Director of Research at the Department of Nutrition and Feed Technology at Nofima, said research is expected to start early next year.
In an extrusion trial, Buhler replaced the fish meal in a fish feed with insect meal (Hermetia meal) and will reveal data and processing conditions for optimal cooking and bulk density during Aquafeed.com’s 9th Aquafeed Horizons Asia conference, to be held March 29, 2016 in Bangkok (see feedconferences.com for conference details). He joins a team of aquafeed experts from industry and applied science, many of whom will zero in on fishmeal replacement issues. One of those is Dr. Alexandros Samartzis of Evonik, who says the latest experimental studies indicate that the substitution of fishmeal with alternative protein sources do not affect the growth, survival and feed conversion ratio of shrimp, as long as nutrient composition, including amino acid profiles, are balanced to cover the species’ nutrient requirements. He will discuss the digestibility coefficient of crude protein and individual amino acids of many ingredients during the meeting.
Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Alabama (UAB) at Birmingham appear to have found a way to solve the problems altogether, at least for shrimp. Using sea urchins and shrimp as models, UAB scientists discovered that one species could feed another from its waste, without needing to use feed at all. Sea urchin pellets are full of nutrients and healthy bacteria and, according to the researchers, help shrimp grow faster and larger than they did when consuming shrimp feed.
“When you have urchins present, you won’t need the shrimp feed,” said the research team leader, Dr. Steve Watts. “What we’ve found is that the shrimp do very well when just consuming the urchin pellets alone — they grow large fast and stay healthy. In many cases, they exceeded the growth rate of shrimp fed the expensive feed.”
Benchmark Holdings confirms Inve acquisition hopes
In a move that has surprised the international aquaculture sector and would constitute a reverse takeover under the AIM rules, the UK-listed biotech firm Benchmark Holdings has confirmed that it is contemplating the potential acquisition of the Dutch-based Inve Aquaculture Holding, which prides itself on providing “high-tech, cost-effective nutrition and health tools for the aquaculture industry”.
Skretting sponsors aquaculture research facility in Tasmania, Australia
The University of Tasmania has opened a $6.5 million aquaculture research facility at Taroona, co-sponsored by Skretting Australia, the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments, the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre, the University of Tasmania, and Huon Aquaculture Group.
Construction on the facility was completed in September and the first salmon have arrived.
The site will test the use of recirculation water systems in salmon production, and has specially designed tanks to control environmental conditions including temperature, that will enable researchers to examine climate change effects relevant to local conditions.
It will also support development of different types of feed; feeds that optimize the use of marine ingredients, feeds that can be used to supply health treatments, and feeds that produce efficient growth over a range of temperatures.
The experimental research facility is managed by the University’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and will facilitate collaborative research, particularly with the Atlantic salmon industry, on fish health and nutrition. In particular, the facility will support the control of amoebic gill disease, Tasmania’s most costly disease, by speeding up investigations into suitable treatments.
Breaking new ground with feed machinery standards
There are more than 30,000 feed mills in the world. More than 100 countries and regions are involved in the import and export business of feed machinery every year. Yet policies governing feed machinery manufacturing and the feed industry in general differ widely across countries. To help harmonize market practices worldwide, a new ISO technical committee (ISO/TC 293) has been created to supply the industry with standards for feed machinery used to produce formulated feed in feed processing mills.
In the absence of harmonized International Standards, each feed machinery manufacturer produces feed machines to its own specifications, while each individual feed producer procures machinery to suit its needs. Inconsistent requirements have notably hindered international trading of such machinery and there is urgent demand for International Standards to coordinate business across borders.
According to Lujia Han, Chair of the new ISO/TC 293, there are a large number of terms defining the feed processing technology. Due to disagreement among countries over terminology issues as well as the application of graphical symbols for feed machinery and feed processing technology, barriers to international trade and technological communication on feed machinery have emerged. Feed mills all over the world have suffered innumerable accidents due to the lack of proper safety measures for feed machinery, including safety design, safety protection design, dust explosion prevention, electrical systems, and the safety requirements involved in layout, installation and the manufacturing of equipment. Dust explosions in feed mills, for example, are a worldwide problem. In feed processing machinery, many factors can affect feed hygiene, the environment and operators’ well-being, so concerted solutions need to be found. The health of people and animals, and the security of people and property, are the top priority of standardization, underpinned by a robust terminology base.
To address these issues, three groups have been created within ISO/TC 293 to work specifically on terminology, safety and hygiene.
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.