EWOS says it has lots of ‘irons in the fire’ to recycle and upcycle nutrients to improve the environmental profile of farmed fish feed.
In the second instalment of our features on environmental footprint reduction initiatives in the feed sector, we talk to Ted Andreas Mollan, supplier development manager at salmonid feed group, EWOS, to hear about some of its sustainability focused projects. “We are investing NOK100 million ($13 million) a year in R&D to improve feed composition and make salmon feed more sustainable,” said Mollan.
He said EWOS, which has a 33% share of the global salmon and trout feed market, is involved in projects throughout the whole value chain of salmon feed production to improve efficiency, economy and sustainability and that it encourages suppliers to comply with responsible production principles such as ProTerra on soy along with the IFFO RS and MSC on marine raw materials.
The company expects two to three times more growth in salmonid feed demand in the next three years, and perhaps more if Norwegian farmers can leverage productivity potential. It forecasts the global salmonid feed market to exceed four million tons in 2016.
“Salmon filets have a unique standing in the market and volume will continue to grow as more people increase buying power,” said Mollan.
But a key aspect of the sustainability of salmon aquaculture industry is the supply of fishmeal and fish oil, both of which are finite resources.
EWOS, said Mollan, has been collaborating with the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI), which includes the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other salmon industry partners, to research and develop new projects to support the sustainable management of fish oil and fishmeal, and to review the potential of alternative resources.
New raw materials
Inclusion of fish oil in EWOS salmonid feed was on average 24% of the formulation in 2005 and reduced to just 11% by 2012, with the balance coming from plant oil alternatives in Europe and some poultry oil in Chile and Canada.
“The process of developing sustainable feed formulations is a continuous process for us. We have managed to improve availability of viable vegetable raw materials to further replace marine raw materials, but there is still huge potential for improvement. However, there is not an absolute goal of removing marine proteins from diets,” said Mollan.
Indeed, the feed company had said previously that large scale commercialization of genetically modified plants and algae as the major alternative Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) sources is likely to take several years, meaning that fish oil will remain a crucial and strategically important resource for the producer for the foreseeable future.
Nevertheless, it continues to work on ways to decrease the inclusion of fishmeal and fish oil in salmon feed.
Ongoing research collaboration in the area of developing substitutes to marine EPA and DHA sources include the company’s partnership in the CO2BIO project – a network of stakeholders from industry and academia that aims to use cleaned carbon dioxide emissions from the Mongstad oil refinery in Norway to produce algae for fish feed.
The Norwegian Parliament awarded the project $1 million in funding for a pilot plant that would use CO2 captured at the CO2 Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM).
Construction of the 300-square-metre algae production test facility was scheduled for completion in early 2015 but Svein Nordvik, who manages the project, told this publication today the build has been delayed until August this year. “We will have the opening ceremony at the beginning of 2016 and will then start the R&D work based on algae and CO2 from TCM,” he said.
Together with Hordafôr in Norway, EWOS is also increasing the inclusion levels of marine trimmings and by-products in its feed, which it said are nutritious raw materials for salmon feed that otherwise goes to waste. Its use of such products rose to 31% in 2013 from 24% in 2012.
For many years, the salmon feed maker has used animal by-products (ABPs) like blood meal and poultry meal in feeds produced in both Chile and Canada. There has not wide use of ABPs in salmon feed in Europe in recent years, in compliance with regulations and market requirements. But EWOS believes this could change in the near future.
Its Spotlight publication from 2013 notes: “Animal by-products are a safe source of cost effective, high protein, nutritious raw materials that can be sourced locally in all regions. The inclusion of ABPs in feed formulations increases the scope for nutritionists to further expand the raw material basket and reduce dependence on marine resources. Blood and poultry meals of the right quality are extremely good protein sources and EWOS encourages the use of these raw materials on sustainability and economic grounds in all regions.”
Tunicates and insects
Mollan said EWOS is also involved in a research project around tunicates which is evaluating their use in animal and salmon feed.
Tunicates, which feed on algae and microorganisms, are found in all the world’s oceans. When their water content is removed, they consist of 55% protein, and they are also the only animals that produce cellulose. It is expected they could have potential, in the long term, for both feed and biofuel.
And he said the salmon feed company is collaborating in the Research Council of Norway funded AquaFly project. The partners involved will spend the next four years investigating the potential of using insects in fish feed.
When asked how the feed group can help contribute to more environmentally friendly salmon farming production in terms of waste, Mollan said: “The waste output from salmon farming is dependent on several factors like environment, fish health, farm management and also feed quality. By developing more efficient feed solutions with highly digestible nutrient content and improved feed conversion rate the waste output is reduced.”
This is something that is being sorted by salmon farmers though, particularly as due to the growing populations, the demand for fish is increasing as governments and food and health advisory boards are actively encouraging people to consume more fish as part of a healthy and balanced diet. You can get more information about that here though. The main thing is that farmed salmon is most commonly recognized for its high levels of Omega-3 content, but is also a good source of high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals, so is often a healthy meal choice for many consumers. So it’s no surprise that this has become an increasingly popular choice of food.