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Salmon feed innovations to boost Scotland’s biggest food export market

Staff Writer | September 2, 2016
The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) announced over £140,000 support for two projects aimed at improving salmon feed formulations.
Aquaculture   Funding from industry and academic partners
That was amplified by over a quarter of a million pounds of funding from industry and academic partners.

The two new projects – which mark SAIC’s first feeds-related projects and mean that the Centre is now active across all four areas identified as being priorities for innovation – were announced at an 80-strong consortium member event attended by industry, academia and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP.

The first project, led by BioMar in partnership with supermarket giant Morrisons, the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling and SARIA, will address a core challenge for the salmon farming industry: identifying alternative protein sources that are locally sourced and have low environmental impact, for use in feeds.

It aims to highlight key issues and develop a roadmap to explore the use of avian-derived protein (from poultry).

Currently, global salmon feed production relies on three major protein sources: soy meal, fish meal and land animal protein. However, in the UK industry there is a higher proportion of ingredients from marine resources and imported vegetable protein sources like soy protein concentrates. Adopting avian protein could significantly reduce feed costs and, in doing so, overall production costs.

Although Chilean and Australian salmon farming sectors have been using avian proteins for over a decade without issue, there are still some challenges around consumer acceptance of introducing these products into the UK’s food chain.

The project will also be innovative in its cross-sector approach, spanning the supply chain from raw material producer (SARIA), to feed producer (BioMar), through to UK retailer of farmed salmon (Morrisons).

The initial six-month phase will focus on collecting data from retailers and consumers to identify the issues related to adopting avian proteins, and will cost £68,144 – of which SAIC is contributing £40,907. If consumer perception around avian proteins is found to be positive, later phases of the project could comprise nutritional and fish quality analysis.

The second SAIC-supported feeds project will see natural animal health and nutrition specialist Alltech partner with the University of Glasgow, Marine Harvest and NOFIMA to explore a key cause of poor growth in salmon: inefficient digestion, linked to the fish’s metabolic rate.

Intestinal microbes are known to play a central role in how fish metabolise and harvest energy from feed, and greater understanding of these processes could reveal routes to improve growth efficiency of salmon. To this end, the team will develop a new experimental tool – SalmoSim – to explore the link between gut microbial communities and feed digestion.

Alltech already operates a successful equivalent ex vivo gut model for dairy cows and a number of nutrigenomic platforms in its applied research capacity. However, there is currently no system available for fish.

The total project cost is £360,055, of which £101,644 is contributed by SAIC.