What It Means to Be Truly Sustainable When It Comes to Aquaculture…
Global wild fish stocks have been plummeting in the past century due to overfishing. It was thought that aquaculture of marine fin fish could be a sustainable solution to feed the world’s demand for seafood without depleting the ocean of its precious resources.
Although significant progress has been made in aquaculture thus far, but unknown to many, the majority of farmed fish are still fed on a diet comprising of fishmeal and fish oil, and these – whether in powder, cake or oil form – come from fish and by-catch from the ocean. For every one tonne of fishmeal produced, four to five tonnes of wild-caught fish are needed in the manufacturing process. The irony is obvious.
THE SOLUTION: 100% MARINE FISH-FREE FEED
For aquaculture to be truly sustainable, we need to substitute ingredients in our fish feed with 100% marine fish-free feed, also known as “F3” (https://f3challenge.org/). At the same time, these 100% marine fish-free feed still need to offer the same level of nutrition and palatability offered by fishmeal and fish oil obtained from wild-caught fish.
PROTEIN FROM INSECT AND OTHER SOURCES?
Eco Aquaculture Asia was born a decade ago in Phuket, Thailand, by scuba diving enthusiasts with the goal of finding a viable and sustainable solution to the depletion of our ocean’s resources.
Our goal is for aquaculture as an industry to replace our need to take fish out of the ocean not only for human consumption as seafood, but also as fish feed. In collaboration with the leading European insect production company, Protix, we are currently experimenting with 100% marine fish-free feed on Hybrid grouper fry in our own aquaculture farms.
In place of fishmeal, fish oils, krill meal and squid meal that usually constitute a marine fin fish diet, we use Protix’s Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae meal, ProteinX, high-quality terrestrial animal proteins (primarily poultry), plant proteins, marine algae powders and marine algae oils instead. The initial results are very promising: not only have we found that growth and weight gain in the juvenile fish on some of the fish-free diet are similar to those on traditional diets, in fact in some of our trials, the juvenile fish have grown longer and heavier than those fed on traditional diets.
Feed conversion ratios (FCR) the ratio or rate measuring the efficiency with which the bodies of livestock convert animal feed into the desired output – of the trial fry have been equal or better than those on control diets. Chemical analyses of the fish to ascertain protein, fat and energy retention will be done at the end of our trials.
HOW DOES THE COST OF 100% MARINE FISH-FREE FEED COMPARE TO THAT OF TRADITIONAL FEEDS?
As with all products, the bottom-line matters: at the moment, the cost of the 100% marine fish-free feed we have produced in-house is almost double the cost of commercially-produced traditional diets. But this is not an accurate comparison as we have only been producing small amounts of the fish-free feed, and costs for small quantities are higher compared to bulk purchase of raw ingredients. After initial trials on palatability, FCR, growth performance, etc., our next major goal is to bring the cost of our 100% marine fish-free feed down to make it more accessible and attractive for other aquaculture farmers to try it out as well, and to encourage them to replace the traditional fish diet with fish-free feed.
We aim to continue our in-nursery trials until the fry reach a size of 15 cm (6 inches), and then move them to grow-out ponds until they reach market size, at which point we hope we would have achieved an important milestone for the environment!