Like many industries, our success relies on the availability and high quality of our raw materials. In the case of farmed salmon, this is the raw ingredients that make up our salmon feed. One major component of current salmon feed comes from wild fish in the form of fish meal and fish oil. As the demand for protein grows, and in turn the salmon aquaculture industry grows to meet that demand, we know we cannot continue to use these resources to the same levels, and instead, we need to find innovative ways of promoting responsible use of such resources, and identify alternative sources to complement their use.
Our supply chains need to be transparent and demonstrate responsible use of resources. Which is why, through our partnerships with our Associate Members BioMar, Cargill, Skretting, and Salmofood, and our work with the ASC, we hope to accelerate development of new solutions and approaches to improving the sustainability of feed ingredients, while maintaining our position as an industry leader in environmental performance.
Here are some areas where collaborative innovation is showing significant progress:
Improvements in Forage Fish Dependency Ratios (FFDR) and Feed Conversion Ratios (FCR)
Making sense of the acronyms:
FFDR is the amount of wild fish needed in feed to produce 1 kg of farmed salmon, and FCR is the amount of feed an animal requires to gain 1 kg of body weight. The lower the FFDR, the lower the inclusion percentage of wild fish; the lower the FCR, the more efficient an animal is in retaining the protein and energy from the feed and converting it into food for humans.
Thanks to ongoing innovations in salmon aquaculture over the past 20 years, the feed industry has reduced the amount of fish meal from 65% to 18%, and fish oil from 24% to 11%, and reduced FCR from 2.4:1 to 1.15:1, while maintaining optimal diets for the salmon.
As a fairly young industry, this is a significant development in a short space of time and we plan to continue these innovations to further reduce our impact on marine resources.
In addition, through our partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), we aim to transfer this knowledge to other developing aquaculture sectors, to promote improved sustainability across the sector as a whole.
Optimizing use of by-products
One new approach we are considering is harnessing the by-products (parts of fish not sold for human consumption, or caught but not sold) from other fisheries or aquaculture sectors and redirecting these from waste to become a resource.
Finding alternative sources of Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, usually obtained from the fish oil in salmon feed, can also be found in non-marine sources such as algae or from crops like canola. There is a great deal of innovation happening around the world to see if we can turn such alternatives into commercially viable options, which would allow us to maintain the high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in our feed, while reducing the use of marine ingredients.
In 2015, the GSI and its associated feed companies launched a global tender to help identify viable sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. The tender was highly successful in highlighting the growing industry need for novel resources, and prompted a significant increase in the variety and number of options available to the industry. The industry feed companies are now working with multiple providers to start the incorporation of these resources into industry feeds.