Only 0.4% of the current feed mix comes from sustainable novel ingredients

Fish feed. Photo: Adobe Stock.
Fish feed. Photo: Adobe Stock.

This week NCE Seafood Innovation has launched its first industry knowledge report that aims to be a composition of knowledge from across the value chain on the barriers and possibilities for novel feed ingredients. 'Future ingredients for Norwegian salmon feed', that's its title, addresses the gap between the government's stated ambitions and the state of future feed ingredients towards 2030. According to the words of Nina Stangeland, Managing Director of NCE Seafood Innovation, in the foreword of the report, this gap is larger than most people imagine and the demand from the industry remains unsatisfied. "The truth is that today only 0.4% of the current feed mix comes from what is supposed to be sustainable novel ingredients", she writes.

Still far from the government's ambitions

As the report highlights, feed is by far the most important component in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and costs for the salmon industry. However, the Norwegian government's Hurdal policy platform has created national ambitions for salmon feed in Norway stating that all feed should come from sustainable resources by 2030 and feature an increased share of Norwegian resources. The ultimate goal of the report presented by NCE Seafood Innovation is to visualize the gap between these political ambitions, the current status, and predictions.

"There is a crucial need to increase national industrial production of novel feed ingredients, while improving sustainability along existing value chains will be paramount", says the report. It also notes that an increase in feed volume of about 1 million tons is needed to meet 2030 growth ambitions. "Our analysis indicates that only 140` of the 1 million tonnes we 'need' can be met by novel, Norwegian-produced ingredients", NCE Seafood Innovation states. In other words, "it is a significant gap between the current volume and the planned volume growth. Looking at existing value chains and improving their sustainability will therefore also be necessary".

To fill that gap and meet national ambitions for feed and salmon production by that date, the report identifies four critical success factors. First, meeting future demand through a portfolio of resources. Second, developing an overall strategy for bioresources. Third, developing also a strategy for sustainable feed ingredients. And, fourth and finally, introduce incentives to increase the production of Norwegian feed ingredients.

Little time and much work ahead

In Norway, the novel ingredients with the highest volume potential by 2030 are blue mussels and photoautotrophic microalgae. "Blue mussels are both high in nutrition, have a high digestibility and can be produced along the Norwegian coastline", Harald Sveier, R&I Manager of Lerøy Seafood Group – a company that already includes microalgae as a commercial ingredient – emphasizes in the report. "They can become a strong second leg to our aquaculture industry", he adds.

However, according to the report, the government's 2030 ambitions in the near future, cannot be met by novel ingredients alone, all sustainable possibilities must be explored, including existing alternatives. Alongside with blue mussels and photoautotrophic microalgae, another ingredient with great volume potential by that date is land animal by-products, "but requires increased customer acceptance and consumer education", the report says. According to it, marine animal by-products is also another underutilized source for highly nutritional feed ingredients.

Finally, the report notes that in order to achieve this growth, it is necessary to overcome the obstacles that exist. The lack of a regulatory framework, a national strategy, financing and customer acceptance are some of them. "There is an enormous potential in improving the footprint of feed and thus of farmed salmon", says the Chairman of the Board at NCE Seafood Innovation, Einar Wathne says. But he also warns that it won't be easy. "It will require to challenge the present, make some bold decisions, changes, and upfront investments, collaborate in the value chain and communicate the message to the consumer".

And what does the industry think?

"Costs are the largest barrier", says Fredrik Witte, Managing Director of Cargill Aqua Nutrition North Sea.  "Novel, sustainable feed ingredients are, and will be, more expensive in the commercialization period compared to traditional ingredients. Who should carry the cost of these novel feed ingredients in the salmon industry?", he asks. In his opinion, the question should be addressed by 'supply chain thinking'. "In order to ensure scalability to the volumes that the industry needs, we must be able to distribute the costs among all involved parties in the whole value chain", he states. And adds, "national incentives will also be needed to secure the speed of this transition".

"These are the kinds of efforts where the industry needs to align and work in concert", says Håvard Walde, Skretting General Manager, for his part. "The key potential for fish farmers and feed suppliers to produce a more sustainable fish or feed than their peers is to enter long-term collaborations and commitments with partners and suppliers of novel sustainable ingredients to help them reach scale and to get a future competitive advantage by reducing the footprint compared to industry average", he claims. "Increasing Norwegian production of raw materials may be government policy, but we believe significant financial incentives will be needed to drive such a development forward", he warns. "The industry will always prefer the ingredients with the lowest cost and lowest footprint, irrespective of where they are produced, and the emissions related to transport make up a negligible proportion of the total emissions of any raw material".

The report includes more opinions. Messages of unity, collaboration, and requests for government incentives for Norwegian ingredients are the most repeated. Nevertheless, there are also those who look further into Norwegian borders. "Scalability and sustainability depend on geographical variations", says Renate Kvingedal, Research Director Industrial Biotech, NORCE. "Several feed ingredients require a focus that is wider than only national. Sustainable scaling might be better outside of Norway", she states.

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