Algae: fish feed of the future?
We wanted to take a break from writing about “ISA in B.C.” today because there’s nothing really new to report and because this is actually much more interesting.
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Here’s the story.
A Canadian student from the University of Saskatchewan is doing research in Norway to see if using protein-rich algae in salmon feed can replace fish oil from forage fish.
ARE the fatty acids in certain microalgae suitable to replace fish oil in feed for salmonids? Master student Chuyuan Zhang from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada is looking for answers at the Aquaculture Protein Centre (APC) in Norway.
Zhang is producing feed at APC and performing a digestibility trial on Atlantic salmon in sea water at Nofima’s research station at Sunndalsøra. There she will feed the fish, observe them, take samples of feed and faeces, and analyse.
She will follow up with lab work and discussions with her co-supervisor and other fish nutritionists at APC.The centre has close collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan on this industry-funded project. Back in Canada, Zhang has been doing similar experiments with digestibility and growth on rainbow trout.
“I am particularly interested in finding out how well the fatty acids of the algae are digested, and if they affect the fatty acid profile of the fish compared to salmon that is fed fish oil,” says Zhang. She is also looking at other aspects such as energy and protein digestibility.
“We assume algae could be a very feasible product for fish oil replacement in feed for salmonids,” says Zhang.
Zhang, who is from China, is in Norway for three months. “At home I learned a lot about tropical fish such as carp, and I got curious on other species. It was then very interesting to go to Canada and see large scale aquaculture production of salmon, and now in Norway. I really like working with fish,” she says.
Zhang is supervised by Dr. Murray Drew of the University of Saskatchewan and Dr. Margareth Øverland at APC. Drew was a guest researcher at APC in 2010.
Pretty interesting research. If this pans out, salmon farming could easily become a net producer of protein. It’s already pretty close – thanks to constant improvements in fish feed and new sources of ingredients, the fish meal and fish oil content in salmon feed is far less than it was even 10 years ago, allowing salmon farmers to be within reach of the Holy Grail 1:1 feed conversion ratio.
It’s easy to grow algae. And with a limitless, cheap source of protein for salmon, farmed salmon would have very little drain on the world’s limited resources. That would mean salmon, one of the healthiest protein sources you can get, would be even easier to grow. And growing a net protein producer, particularly protein that is heart-healthy and would serve our hamburger-obsessed population well, just sounds like good scientific sense to us.