One of the biggest trends right now in aquaculture is to achieve more sustainable and health-beneficial alternatives to feed than fish meal and fish oil. Consequently, this will improve the welfare of farmed fish.
Aquaculture companies and other agents are investigating and incorporating potential alternative ingredients. Such as soy, cottonseed, coconut, palm kernel, olive oil, insects, and algae among others. The fact that fish oil prices are rising and technology to produce other ingredients is improving, this new trend is progressing satisfactorily.
According to the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA), the European Union produces from 400.000 to 600.000 tonnes of fishmeal per year. Besides, from 120.000 to 200.000 tonnes of fish oil. This constitutes around 10-15% of global production. In more detail, Denmark is the largest producer in the EU, accounting for 40% to 50% of the total production.
The European production is mainly based on small pelagic species such as sprat, sand eel, blue whiting and herring. On the other side, quotas and the demand for human consumption limit the fisheries that produce fishmeal and fish oil.
The production of fishmeal and fish oil will grow moderately in the coming years. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the aquaculture industry will be one of the main actors in this task. If the trend continues, by 2029 aquaculture production will reach 105 million tonnes, 10 million more than the capture sector.
Also, we should keep in mind that fishmeal and fish oil are limited resources. Thereby, its use will end up being limited for specific stages in production and as strategic ingredients at lower concentrations.
Furthermore, the future of fishmeal and fish oil production will also depend on climate and environmental conditions, fisheries management, and trade policies. In addition to exceptional situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic or the war in Ukraine.
Looking for alternatives
More specifically, it is worth noting how numerous companies are investing in farmed seaweed processes. Through this method, important growth potential is achieved as a source of food and fiber, both for aquaculture and for human consumption.
In 2022, we have seen interesting collaborations such as The Seaweed Company and Colruyt Group. This agreement aims to expand the seaweed farms and bring more seaweed products to the European market. The Seaweed Company specializes in the development of high-quality, high-value seaweed products for people, animals, soil, and plants.
Moreover, BioMar announced in February the inclusion of microalgae in its portfolio of raw materials for its flagship products. “Adding microalgae paves the way for the upcoming developments on our sustainable feeds. Our farmers will directly benefit from this with a reduction in their on-farm footprint,” Anders Brandt-Clausen, Managing Director, BioMar Baltics, said.
Last but not least, Cargill confirmed it will add algal oil into all feeds delivered to the Norwegian market. It is worth remembering that the American global food corporation delivered feed with algae oil before. To Norwegian salmon farming and harvesting giant Leroy Seafood, making the ingredient commercially viable.