Researchers in the Netherlands have developed a more sustainable method of feeding salmon grown in aquaculture environments: insects.
In a long-term study called Aquafly performed by Norway’s National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES), researchers evaluated the feasibility and safety of producing insect-based meal from Black soldier fly and Kelp fly grown on marine seaweed. The project aimed to determine whether salmon raised on this particular blend of insect feed could be produced safely and more sustainably without introducing undesirable substances and pathogens into the production chain.
Most salmon raised in sea pens are fed a diet based on fish meal, a blend of nutrients and protein made from fish caught for feeding other fish. By developing an alternative to fish meal, the aquaculture industry could be more sustainable and allow for further global food security and economic growth while limiting the environmental impact.
Initial results of the Aquafly project were positive. According to Feed Navigator, salmon raised on the insect-based fish feed grew similarly to those raised on fish meal.
"We saw very little variation in terms of FCR [feed conversion ratio], confirming that even the last remaining fishmeal can be successfully replaced in commercial salmon diets," said Tarique Arsiwalla, founder and chief commercial officer of Protix, one of the companies participating in the study and developing the feed.
Last summer, the EU made insect protein for feed legal, paving the way for more real-world testing. In February, researchers and Protix conducted the first harvest of 1,200 Atlantic salmon raised entirely on the black soldier fly protein. Protix is calling it "Friendly Salmon" as it is a more sustainable than salmon raised on fish meal alone.
"I do expect there'll be quite a big demand for it. I can already see that from the reactions we've got from our press release, from a very wide global audience being enthusiastic about using fewer marine ingredients in our [salmon] diets," Arsiwalla said.
Currently, the limiting factor on scaling insect-fed salmon is the quantity of feed available. Protix is working with German manufacturer Bühler to have commercial quantities of ProteinX ready for larger fish farms within a year.
All of this is great for sustainability, and ensuring the future of the aquaculture industry. But how do these salmon raised on insect feed taste? Apparently just as good as salmon raised on fish meal.
“It tasted very good, and I don’t notice any difference,” said Erik-Jan Lock, NIFES research group leader in a March SalmonBusiness article.