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A committee of salmon feed manufacturers is at the table for countless new ingredients

Fearful of years of reliance on finite fish oil and flour supplies, salmon and salmon feed manufacturers say they are looking forward to the variety of alternatives now on the market – and don’t expect one new ingredient to dominate the others.

According to Lindsay Pollock, North Sea Sustainability Manager at Cargill Aqua Nutrition, using a larger “basket” of ingredients has become a focus area at Cargill Aqua Nutrition. This approach not only improves the reliability of their feed production, said Pollock, but also enables them to meet diverse customer needs while reducing the company’s environmental footprint.

“We have moved away from a single ingredient focus so that we can meet the needs of many different species and choose the formulations,” she said during a discussion hosted by F3 Future of Fish Feed.

Pollock said Cargill Aqua Nutrition, which produces approximately 1.2 million tons of salmonid feed annually, has reduced its intake of marine constituents by 80% over the past 20 years. In March, the company also announced the goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2026.

Pursuing a more sustainable, fishmeal-free salmon diet isn’t necessarily a new goal, according to third-generation feed maker Bill Cramer, president of Star Milling in California. In 2014, he said, his company was approached to produce a fish-free diet for a trout farm that wants to sell sustainable products in local specialty shops and restaurants, and the family business continues to produce this specialty feed to this day.

What has changed over the years, says Cramer, is the availability of viable alternatives to fish meal and fish oil. Originally, Star Milling used nut meat that they obtained locally from packagers who had broken nuts that they couldn’t sell through their usual channels. These worked well on the trout diet, he said, but they were difficult to source and difficult to process due to the lack of standardization. Today, he said, their recipes contain mostly fermented vegetable proteins from corn and barley, which are still expensive but widely available.

Feeding salmonids with no seafood ingredients “can be done,” Cramer said. “It will be done. However, it’s very limited and for fish producers with very specialized markets that are on the small side, but the development process is there and it’s pretty fascinating. “

But one size doesn’t fit all, says Jesse Trushenski, chief science officer of rainbow trout producer Riverence. According to Trushenski, Riverence has experimented with fermented proteins, as well as insect proteins and seaweed flours and oils, and sees promising results in all of these ingredients. But for large producers like Riverence, America’s largest producer of rainbow trout, Trushenski said many of these ingredients have yet to reach the levels necessary to be viable in the diet for large-scale aquaculture.

“With the amount of fish we produce each year, even the most perfect ingredient is not going to help us if it’s not available on a large scale,” she said.

Vegard Denstadli, technical director of the salmon division at BioMar Norway, also noted that these new ingredients can have different ecological footprints depending on where and how they are produced. For example, if an insect farm is powered by coal, it will not bring the same environmental benefits as one powered by hydropower.

But these alternatives are still useful, Denstadli said, not only because they help alleviate the “bottleneck” placed on salmon production by limited global stocks of fishmeal and fish oil, but also because they give producers the flexibility give to develop specific diets that are optimized for nutrition. Cost and environmental impact without the constraints of over-reliance on a handful of ingredients.

“It is possible to have fish-free feed,” said Pollock, “but I think the overarching problem is having sustainable feed and adding sustainable ingredients to the basket.”

Emma Penrod has been involved in science and business with a focus on health, the environment and agriculture for more than a decade. Penrod covers the feed industry for FeedStrategy.com and can be contacted at [email protected].
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