UK-based Rare Earth Global begins researching hemp for use in salmon feed

Published on
August 25, 2022
Hemp plants growing in a field.

London, England-based Rare Earth Global has received EUR 50,000 (USD 49,900) from the U.K. Seafood Innovation Fund to fund a project to grow sustainable industrial hemp to be tested as an ingredient in salmon feed.

The funding will be allocated toward researching methods for incorporating hemp seed into the diets of salmon farmed in Scotland. Since there are approximately 100 types of hemp plants, Rare Earth Global will test to see which variety of plant has best potential for inclusion in salmon aquafeed.

The research project includes support from the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, collaborating with the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Center (SAIC). The research is in its initial phases, testing hemp protein’s digestibility and impact on fish health and nutrition.

"The main goals for this project are to demonstrate that alternative animal feed ingredients are viable, and often a healthier option to current fish feeds. That hemp is more sustainable, and due to its digestive and nutritious traits, will be cost-effective for all stages of the supply chain," Rare Earth Global CEO Nathaniel Milner told SeafoodSource. "We are working to reduce the environmental footprint and increase the economic impact of aquaculture. We wish also to see significant job creation in the U.K. and provide security for farmers here who have serious concerns due to the current geopolitical climate as well as the continued fall out from Brexit."

Rare Earth Global is working with an international advisory team on the hemp-development program with governments in Southeast Asia and North America, Earth Global Managing Director and Co-Founder Suneet Shivaprasad said.

“Our aim is to ensure that every part of the plant delivers maximum impact, which is why we are focusing on aquaculture. Our studies show that protein-conversion rates in salmon are much higher than for cattle or poultry, highlighting significant potential for the sector to introduce it as a new, sustainable feed ingredient. The process could be scaled up very quickly and we could see an entirely new U.K.-based supply chain for fish feed emerging in the near-future,” Shivaprasad said. “There are lots of novel feed ingredients coming into the aquaculture sector, but the hemp seed trial is about making the best use of local ingredients. Hemp is one of the fastest-growing plants, using minimal water and capturing up to eight times more carbon than most trees, which makes it a highly sustainable choice for so many different products and materials."

Utilizing the hemp in aquaculture feed has the potential to decrease the use of fish meal and soy ingredients, the initial results of the research have shown. It has also shown that protein is able to be derived from the sustainable hemp at rates of up to 50 percent. This exceeds the minimum requirement of 35 percent.

“We already know that hemp protein is suitable for human consumption, which is highly promising, but this trial will help us better understand its impact on fish diets including gut health and digestibility," Insititute of Aquaculture lecturer Moncia Betancor said. "There may also be additional nutritional benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties, and our aim is to gather appropriate data that can be used to inform future decisions about the suitability of this new feed ingredient.”

This project is thought to be the first attempt at using hemp  in aquafeed.

"We believe that hemp truly is the 'miracle crop' that everyone talks about. We have seen it, grown it, processed it, and sold it to very happy customers. However, getting the process and the pricing right is essential for the industry to have its revival,"Milner said. "Through large-scale offtake agreements, standardised farming and processing procedures, and a localized supply chain opens the doors finally to hemp becoming a global commodity that it should be." 

Photo courtesy of Rare Earth Global 

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