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Skretting partners with Indian startup ViAqua to develop on a solution ‘worth more than gold' to the shrimp industry

Skretting partners with Indian startup ViAqua to develop on a solution ‘worth more than gold’ to the shrimp industry

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By: Aquaculture Magazine Editorial Team

International company Skretting and Indian startup ViAqua are working on their first product together: an edible RNA substance that can be put into microcapsules – so tiny they can’t even be seen with the naked eye – and help shrimp cope with challenges linked to white spot syndrome virus (WSSV). Nutreco’s aquaculture feed business line is leading to exciting progress on a groundbreaking innovation aiming to address an industry problem that today causes billions of euros of total production loss in the shrimp industry each year: WSSV alone causes a 15% reduction in global shrimp production each year.

The pioneering product that ViAqua and Skretting are developing can have a huge impact on the industry (along with helping Skretting and Nutreco achieve their purpose of Feeding the Future).

Viral diseases such as WSSV have plagued the shrimp industry for decades – at times almost wiping it out – and there are no effective treatment options. “The mortality rates associated with a viral outbreak can reach 100% within a few days of onset, leading to massive financial losses for shrimp producers. Diseases have resulted in an estimated 30-40% loss in global shrimp production annually,” said Christian Delannoy, Global Product Manager Health on the Skretting Innovation Shrimp team.

Skretting partners with Indian startup ViAqua to develop on a solution ‘worth more than gold' to the shrimp industry

Understanding the emerging future and preparing for it

While vaccination protects many other aquaculture species from disease, it’s not an option for shrimp. Vaccinating single individuals – as is done with salmon – would be lengthy and time consuming. “But the main reason shrimp cannot be vaccinated is because these animals lack the cells and pathways to mount a successful response to vaccines, which requires adaptive, memory-type components,” explained Delannoy.

“Innovations like this go beyond solving the problems of today – they are about understanding the emerging future and preparing for it, something that we are excited to be able to do with partners like ViAqua,” said for his part Erik Tveteraas, Director of Venturing, NuFrontiers.

Proprietary technology platform

Since they first joined up in 2018, the partnership between Skretting and ViAqua has been a great fit. ViAqua has developed a proprietary technology platform unlike anything else in aquaculture, and Skretting provides the aquafeed nutrition expertise that is enabling the two companies to create a groundbreaking new feed aimed at keeping shrimp healthy.

Since they first joined up in 2018, the partnership between Skretting and ViAqua has been a great fit. ViAqua has developed a proprietary technology platform unlike anything else in aquaculture, and Skretting provides the aquafeed nutrition expertise that is enabling the two companies to create a groundbreaking new feed aimed at keeping shrimp healthy.

“ViAqua’s platform uses RNA-based technology to trigger a cell reaction that silences WSSV, promoting shrimp health and welfare,” added Delannoy. “The uniqueness of the technology resides in the fact that it can be applied in feed through a novel encapsulation delivery method that is able to withstand adverse conditions in shrimps’ digestive systems and promote absorption.” For them the impact on the shrimp industry would be invaluable – in fact, ViAqua‘s edible RNA substance is “literally worth more than its weight in gold”.

Great potential based on the uniqueness

Tveteraas explained that they identify potential partners in a number of different ways, and they saw great potential in ViAqua, based on the uniqueness of their technology and how it could help with the idea of Feeding the Future, and determined that it was the right company to invest in and partner with.

“Skretting is one of the most innovative aquafeed companies in the world, with a vast breadth of expertise and internal research capabilities,” said the Director of Venturing at Nutreco’s startup investment arm, NuFrontiers. But, he said, no company can be the best at everything all at once. “By embracing open innovation and collaborating with start-ups like ViAqua, Skretting can gain expertise it might never have had access to and tackle a wider variety of industry challenges and unmet needs.”

Shared commitment to innovation

Shai Ufaz, ViAqua CEO and Co-founder, is also enthusiastic about the partnership. “Skretting’s commitment to pioneering nutrition solutions in aquaculture is truly inspiring. Their dedication to research, development, and cutting-edge technology aligns perfectly with our own vision for a more sustainable and responsible future. This shared commitment to innovation is precisely why we chose to partner with them and together, we can unlock the full potential of aquaculture towards a healthier, and more sustainable industry.”

The collaboration has worked very well so far, according to Tveteraas. “Nutreco is both a shareholder and commercial partner (through Skretting), which has proven to be a good setup for a long-term partnership based on new product development with R&D-heavy workstreams.”

So far, the technology has delivered exceptional results in R&D trials performed in renowned facilities, demonstrating that its formulation significantly improves shrimps’ health. “Innovations like this go beyond solving the problems of today – they are about understanding the emerging future and preparing for it, something that we are excited to be able to do with partners like ViAqua,” said Erik.

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