Feed giant Skretting on Monday opened a new shrimp research facility in Ecuador with the aim of advancing the shrimp farming industry's sustainability efforts, technology developments and feed practices.

Nutreco-owned Skretting has invested €6.1 million ($5.9 million) in the facility via its innovation fund, Skretting Aquaculture lnnovation (AI).

Ecuador is expected to become the world’s leading shrimp producing country and it makes sense to establish a research facility here and now, Skretting Innovation Director Alex Obach told IntraFish.

According to figures from research institute Kontali, India and Ecuador both produced around 1 million metric tons of shrimp last year, but the South American nation is expected to surpass India in volume during 2022.

The new campus is situated in the Guayaquil region and comprises fully equipped laboratories and state-of-the-art experimental units that will perform trials on vannamei shrimp.

While the facility is state-of-the-art, it is still small-scale, Obach said.

There are about 300 tanks of various sizes where Skretting will test the shrimp, across all stages of production. It has also included a green water facility to mimic real ponds.

Ecuador has invested heavily in its shrimp industry. The diet has become more sophisticated, the feed system is based on more advanced technologies and the country’s output has as a result increased significantly, Obach said.

Ecuador has however not expanded its farming volumes but it is the focus on innovation that has led to more yield, he said.

Fish meal independence

At the facility, Skretting will test several novel feed ingredients including algae and insect as it is working towards fishmeal independence.

“Fishmeal independence is different from not using fish meal. I love fish meal if it comes from a certified source, but it is a finite resource,” he said.

The shrimp industry is trialing the salmon industry in terms of the development and adoption of novel feed, he said.

“There will be development for other species too, but salmon is leading the way now.”

The Guayaquil facility will look at how shrimp can grow faster and larger, and be more resilient to disease and environmental challenges.

The results will be applicable across all Skretting’s shrimp operations, not just Ecuador. Evaluations will include health and welfare parameters, growth and feed efficiency as well as digestibility of new and existing feed ingredients.

“I’m normally quite humble, but I cannot be humble about this facility,” Obach said.