Aquaculture feed database to aid shift away from fishmeal and fish oil


Aaron Orlowski

Published on
March 27, 2017

A database of aquaculture feed formulas and fish nutrient requirements could help feed manufacturers as they shift away from feeds made of fishmeal and fish oil.

And that database, called the International Aquaculture Feed Formulation Database, is broadening its scope by expanding into a second international phase, the U.S. Soybean Export Council announced this month.

The database compiles information about the nutritional needs of different fish species and key feed ingredients that meet those needs. It’s the only such standardized, publicly available feed database believed to exist.

The nutritional needs of farmed fish species aren’t well known, and the large number of species hampers efforts to gain that information. By contrast, the nutritional needs of land-farmed species such as cows, pigs and chickens are well-known. Land animal feed databases served as a model for the aquaculture feed database.

Aquaculture feeds made with fishmeal and fish oil pack a powerful nutrient boost. But fish farmers are seeking alternatives to fishmeal and fish oil because of concerns that grinding up millions of tons of wild anchovies, sardines and other forage fish to the demands of a growing aquaculture industry isn’t sustainable.

“As we increase sustainability by moving away from fishmeal and fish oil in aquafeeds, the easy approach to formulation with those ingredients is over,” Lukas Manomaitis, the lead technical consultant the Soybean Export Council’s Aquaculture Program, said in a statement. “We have to move to more complex formulations using a wide variety of ingredients to meet target nutrient levels.”

But feed companies are hesitant to contribute to public databases, often preferring to keep their formulas secret.

“Every feed company has their own database, but bringing together aquaculture formulators from multiple companies is difficult because no one wants to share theirs,” Manomaitis said. “That is the value of having a publicly available aquaculture feed formulation database for use in group situations.”

The database focuses on the nutritional needs of 26 major species groups, and determines nutritional information by using a mix of mathematical models and existing research. The mathematical models can be continually tweaked, allowing the database to evolve and improve.

Seed money from the Soybean Export Council and USAID helped launch the database. The Nebraska Soybean Checkoff and Canadian government also contributed.

Development of the database started in 2014 in Asia, and was originally called the Asian Aquaculture Feed Formulation Database. The first version was tested during 11 workshops across South East Asia in 2015 and 2016.

Work on the third stage of the database will start this year. Results from commercial aquaculture operations will be used to verify the data, as well as analyses of 10 aquaculture species at different life stages.

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