Aquaculture

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Better utilizing feed to save big bucks

 

A new research project to formulate low-impact, money-saving fish feed has been formed by industry players.

Fish need proteins for growth, but optimum growth of fish cannot be obtained by simply adding more proteins to the feed. The fish must be able to digest the proteins and even small differences in the composition and structure of the proteins have considerable effects on their digestibility. If the digestibility of the proteins is optimal the fish growth will improve and the load of nitrogen in the fish faeces will be reduced, leading to a reduction of the environmental impact on the surroundings.

The nutritional value of fish feed depends on both the quality of the raw materials and the production process. The quality varies considerably, and in the production process the raw materials are exposed to high temperatures and pressure which can influence the nutritional quality of the feed. Hence, optimizing the processing of raw materials may lead to big advantages on an extremely competitive market.

Proteins are the most expensive ingredients in feed for aquaculture. On an annual basis, feed company BioMar — one of the research partners in the project — buys over one million tons of raw materials, at a value of approximately €0.7 billion. Therefore an optimization of the protein digestibility by only 1 percent allows for a 1.1 percent reduction in the demand for raw materials used in fish feed production, equaling more than €7 million of annual savings for the aquaculture industry.

“It is new and important for BioMar to cooperate so closely with three universities on one single research project. We have high expectations regarding the possibilities of optimizing our production process based on the ExiPro results, to the benefit of our customers and of BioMar,” said Hanne Tolderlund Rasmussen, product developer, who is heading the ExiPro project at BioMar, along with Senior Product Developer Niels Harthøj Hjermitslev.

Although ExiPro focuses particularly on proteins in fish feed, according to Associate Professor Vibeke Orlien from KU Food, the findings of this project will also generate fundamental knowledge regarding the development of methods for processing of protein-containing food for the world’s population.

Exi-Pro is made up of BioMar, AU Food, KU Food and DTU Aqua, the National Institute of Aquatic Resources at the Technical University of Denmark and the Department of Food Science at Copenhagen University. It is scheduled as a four-year project with a total budget of €2 million.