Santiago, Chile-based Salmones Camanchaca is aiming to hit a feed-conversion ratio of 0.6 across its entire salmon-farming operations by 2030, the company's CEO, Ricardo García, said at the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil (IFFO) conference in Lima, Peru on 26 October, 2022.
“Over the last 15 years, we’ve seen a conversion factor that has come down from over 1.6 to 1.7 to very close to 1 today,” he said during his presentation, “Present and future trends of the salmon sector.” Considering the jump of over 30 percent in feed prices since the first quarter of 2021, improving the fish-in, fish-out ratio would drive efficiency and save on costs, he said.
García said aquaculture holds promise to deliver on feeding the world’s growing population, which is predicted to reach 10 billion by 2050, with the main population growth coming from poorer, developing regions such as Africa. Throughout the world, many people are underfed, García said, while land is overdeveloped: 93 percent of food is produced on just 10 percent of the earth’s surface. Land is 50 times more utilized than the ocean, he said, while yields from wild fishing have flattened.
“About 50 years ago, 50 percent of fishing for human consumption was underdeveloped, today that is below 10 percent,” García said. “There isn’t much hope for fishing to add more food for people.”
García said the amount of land use required to produce 100 grams of protein is equal to nearly 185 square meters for lamb and mutton, 164 square meters for beef, and 7.1 square meters for poultry, compared to just 3.7 square meters for farmed fish.
On a global level, each human eats an average of 350 kilograms of food a year, 110 kilograms coming from dairy products, 45 kilograms from meat, and just 20 kilograms from seafood. While food from aquaculture has become a larger portion of the total, going from zero 40 years ago to 0.5 kilograms today, García said there is room for further growth.
Aquaculture is the one of the most-nutritious foods for human consumption, and seafood can be the answer to achieving healther human diets, according to García. Studies have shown that currently, 50 percent of deaths are related to how people eat, he said.
Water covers 71 percent of the globe yet only 7 percent of human food is derived from aquatic sources, leading García to declare “the ocean is the answer." García said that a shift in how food production is perceived by the public is necessary to enact that goal.
“We need a culture change. [Considering] options for the future, salmon is one of the winners when it comes to seafood, edible yield, and conversion factor,” he said.
Salmon farming results in half the greenhouse gas emissions associated with poultry production and one-tenth that of red meat production. And its feed conversion globally was 1.08:1 in 2022, compared to 2:1 for chicken and 8:1 for red meat.
Further, García said Chile’s salmon industry creates socio-economic development, with total yearly exports of USD 5.5 billion (EUR 5.5 billion), representing 36 percent of the country’s total food exports and 84 percent of its seafood exports. The industry works with more than 4,500 small- and medium-sized enterprises and employs over 150,000 people.
Banks and other financial institutions increasingly favor sustainable food production in their money-lending practices, García said, highlighting Camanchaca landing the first sustainability-linked loan in Chile's salmon industry.
"The sustainability goals need to be quantifiable, ambitious, relevant for the business, and verifiable by third parties to change the cost of funding. This opens the opportunity to show progress over time," he said.
García warned climate change is creating uncertainty for Chile's salmon-farming complex, with ocean conditions becoming more unpredictable and farming therefore becoming more difficult. Climate change cost impacts for Chile's salmon sector reached 6.7 percent in H1 2022, compared to just 3.6 percent of salmon ex-cage costs in 2020.
García also said tighter regulations imposed by Chile's new president, Gabriel Boric, were placing unnecessary restrictions on salmon farming. Comparing the country with Norway, the world’s largest-salmon producing country, García said Chile had moved to protect 41 percent of its total exclusive economic zone as marine protected areas, compared to Norway's protection of 10 percent of its EEZ.
As a result of these multiple pressures, volumes of harvested salmon are declining, García said.
“People are demanding more salmon but we’re not producing enough. But super profits lead to super taxes, as our friends in Norway can tell you. Not growing is a problem,” he said.
Photo courtesy of Camanchaca