USask team plans unique facility to develop and test alternative fish feeds – News

“Protein is by far the #1 ingredient that determines the growth rate of fish,” said Dr. Lynn Weber (PhD), professor of veterinary biomedical sciences at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at USask and co-lead of the project. “It’s the #1 cost of feed, and feed is the #1 cost of aquaculture.”

Declining wild fish stocks are increasing consumer demand for commercially grown fish and seafood, and with it the need for cheaper, environmentally sustainable alternatives to fishmeal, Weber said.

Fishmeal is made from grinding fish species deemed undesirable for human consumption – often caught by dragging nets across the ocean floor – a costly and environmentally damaging practice, unsustainable and affected by declining fish stocks, Weber said.

To cut costs, pet food makers have turned to soy protein as an alternative, she said. But demand as a human food has made soy expensive. The problem is compounded by the fact that soybeans contain compounds called anti-nutrients that destroy the intestines of fish unless the beans are processed to remove the harmful elements.

Ingredients such as beans and peas provide a better protein alternative, said Weber, who researched with colleagues such as Dr. Matt Loewen (DVM, PhD) – a project collaborator – on the use of new processing methods such as fermentation with yeast, to remove anti-nutritional factors from legumes. Research by some team members using insect proteins derived from sources such as fly larvae also looks promising, she said.

USask, located in the heart of a province that produces an abundance of peas, beans and other potential animal feed ingredients, is uniquely equipped to house the proposed Aquafeed test facility, said Weber.

The university has world-class experts in the development and processing of food ingredients, as well as leading scientists in toxicology, environmental studies, artificial intelligence (AI), animal physiology, nutrition and human sciences. behavior that collaborates in the project.

“The trial facility will have basic research aspects related to nutrition, ecotoxicology and AI, but fundamentally it will be a contract facility where we hope to bring in industry partners and responsible for developing new feed ingredients and feeds for aquaculture,” said Weber.

Among the 20 industry, government, academic and business groups supporting the project are global companies such as Denmark’s BioMar AS, Germany’s Evonik and Boston’s InnovaSea.

“These companies are interested enough to directly support the project now, but once we establish the facility and the message gets out, I anticipate it will quickly become the go-to place globally, as there are such a shortage of all the unique expertise that we have,” Weber said.

Weber and Dr. Mike Nickerson (PhD), professor at USask’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources, co-leads the 10-member multidisciplinary faculty team. The group is seeking $3.7 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, or 40% of the $9.3 million needed to revamp the current USask Toxicology Center to house the new facilities. State and federal agencies, USask, and in-kind vendor support are expected to contribute $5.6 million.

The toxicology center’s current continuous-flow aquarium system will be replaced with a recirculating aquaculture system with a large biofilter that will reduce water consumption by up to 90%, she said.

Each of the 30 new feed analysis tanks will be able to hold at least 20 commercial-sized fish such as trout and tilapia and will be equipped with continuous water quality sensors and in-tank cameras to closely monitor feeding rates and responses to new feed ingredients. , behavior and growth, using AI technology. Additionally, the rest of the facility will have other larger tanks to hold fish that are not currently on trial.

The USask facility would allow the full economic cycle of value-added agriculture to occur in Saskatchewan and bring lucrative new markets for crops grown in Canada, Weber said.

About Hector Hedgepeth

Check Also

Can sustainable initiatives benefit your team’s mental health as well as the environment?

Sustainability in its truest sense is much more than just an environmental issue. It is …