Netherlands-based alternative feed ingredients producer Veramis and its partner Empagran, an Ecuadorian shrimp producer, are on course to scoop a $100,000 (€100,721) prize awarded to projects aiming to reduce aquaculture’s reliance on forage fish.

The F3 Challenge is a collaboration between NGOs, scientists and private partners.

The winners of the sales contest, aimed at sparking innovation in the aquaculture feed industry to find viable, cost-competitive replacements for either fishmeal or fish oil will take home the winnings.

Results will be unveiled at the Global Seafood Alliance (GOAL) conference in Seattle, which takes place between Oct. 3-6.

In a July third quarter update, organizers said contestants competing in the so called "Carnivore Edition" of the contest sold a combined total of over 3,185 metric tons of fish-free feed.

With the Sept. 15 final sales reporting deadline date fast approaching, Veramaris CEO Karim Kurmaly is upbeat at the prospect of victory in the shrimp category.

"We most likely, hopefully, keeping my fingers crossed, will win it," he told IntraFish.

Veramaris and Empagran held discussions in 2019 and 2020 before embarking on the F3 Challenge to produce so-called "vegetarian" shrimp, using no fishmeal or fish oil.

In 2019, helped by sales to Norwegian salmon farmers, Veramaris picked up a $200,000 (€201,354) prize after winning the F3 Challenge.

While Star Milling Co. headed the salmonid category, Dainichi Corporation remained in the lead in the other Carnivorous Species Category for its “fish-free” feed for red sea bream.

While aquaculture now provides well over 50 percent of the world’s seafood, and continues to grow, fishmeal and fish oil supplies are poised to create a supply-chain bottleneck.

Crustaceans, including shrimp, consume roughly 31 percent of global fishmeal production used in aquaculture, while salmonids consumed around 23 percent of global fishmeal and 60 percent of global fish oil used in aquaculture, according to data from UK trade body Seafish.

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