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Functional feeds a focus at new Oz salmon research facility

With expansion comes a need for increased focus on sustainability.

Atlantic salmon is one of the leading aquaculture species farmed in Australia. Production has grown from 5,700 tonnes in 2008 to a current level of 45,000 tonnes worth AUD 550 million ($434 million/€387 million) and is expected to continue to grow at rate well above the industry average in the next few years.

With more than 95 percent of Australian salmon produced in Tasmania, the industry recently broke ground on its AUD 6 million ($4.8 million/€4.2 million) Experimental Aquaculture Facility (EAF) to be built at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies’ (IMAS) Taroona campus. The facility, which will specialize in all aspects of Atlantic salmon production research, is expected to be fully operational by mid-2015. It will include a series of tanks, monitoring equipment, laboratory space, and associated building and support services.

The EAF is being jointly-funded by the University of Tasmania, salmon farmer Huon Aquaculture, feed producer Skretting and the Australian and Tasmanian governments.

Its research will focus on fish health, more effective use of marine resources in fish feeds, climate change effects and food security. It will also enable researchers to work on salmon under controlled conditions right through to harvest.

“The Experimental Aquaculture Facility provides the capacity to undertake experiments with large Atlantic salmon, which has not previously been available in Tasmania and is certain to bring huge benefits to all local producers,” says James Rose, managing director of Skretting Australia. “This facility is another important step in the development of the industry and will allow us to build our local knowledge more strongly. It offers a significant opportunity for undertaking collaborative industry research and building international research linkages in the future.”

Once the EAF is up and operational, Skretting Australia will increase its focus on the challenges unique to the Tasmanian Atlantic salmon industry. This will include accelerating the development of functional feeds to support stocks during high temperature conditions when the gut wall becomes more permeable and the fish become more vulnerable to pathogens. Higher temperatures also lead to a loss of appetite and subsequent slowing of growth rates.

Since their launch in 2011, its high temperature (HT) feeds have become an integral part of the industry’s diet strategy. A recent upgrade has led to even better overall performance and the concept is now being introduced to other species, says Rose.

At the same time, Skretting Australia will continue to assist salmon companies — as it did in working with Tassal last year — looking to achieve full Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification by supplying fish feeds compliant with the standard.

“Skretting firmly believes the ASC will play an increasingly important role in the future of the aquaculture industry. We are committed to delivering sustainable feeds compliant to the ASC’s strict criteria, starting with our salmon feeds. In getting behind the standard, Skretting Australia is helping bring global best practice to the Tasmanian salmon farming industry,” says Rose.