Op-ed: What is needed to address the food challenge

IFFO Director-General Petter M. Johannessen speaking at the organization's annual conference.

Petter M. Johannessen is director-general of IFFO – The Marine Ingredients Organization.

The world’s population keeps growing while natural resources keep shrinking. This is what the food challenge is all about. Different needs and sectors are increasingly competing. Let’s take the example of biofuels, used for factories and transport: they depend upon the same natural resources as the food sector does to source its ingredients. Oil is becoming a key resource.

Fuels made from wastes and residues are in particularly high demand because they satisfy GHG and feedstock policy objectives in the United States and Europe. In fact, wastes and residues are expected to be used for 13 percent of biofuel production in 2027, up from 9 percent in 2021, the International Energy Agency states in its Renewable 2022 report.

As reported during IFFO’s Members Meeting, held from 2 to 3 May 2023, in Madrid, Spain, biodiesel production doubled in the past 10 years and is reaching new highs in the United States, Indonesia, and Brazil.

We are now far from the times when fish oil was a low-value product either discarded or used as a second-grade product in the industry. Omega-3 lipids (even more when these are short-chain polyunsaturated) are now well-established as important promoters of human health. They are a co-product of fish processing, including fishmeal production and as such, have a growing value, associated with their comparatively low GHG emissions intensity.

These considerations underpin the increasing demand for fish oils, driven by the rapid growth of aquaculture and other competing markets such as pharmaceutical and food supplements, as well as the pet food sector.

Deforestation is as serious a threat as overfishing. Both threats need to be combatted and all ingredients must be assessed through a holistic lens which looks at the wide range of environmental impacts that their harvesting and production generate, from cradle to grave.

Today, 52 million metric tons of aquaculture feed are produced. By 2030, 90 million metric tons will need to be produced to keep pace with the growth in demand for aquaculture products. There is therefore a need for an additional 40 million metric tons of feed ingredients.

Responsible marine ingredients, used as aquafeeds, are one of the answers to the demographic challenge expected in the coming decades.

They are not the only answer of course: contribution from all is needed. The marine ingredients industry needs to look to the future side by side with the producers of novel feed ingredients. They were invited to present at the IFFO Members Meeting. There is no silver bullet.

“Several ingredients, as well as trimmings, are needed and can complement each other nicely,” was the concluding remark.

With increasing innovation push on the supply side, the pull from the market requires competitiveness from new innovations in terms of social and environmental credentials, competitivity in cost, nutrition and physical properties. Collaboration within the feed value chain is the way forward to ensure the comparability of data and products.

Photo courtesy of IFFO


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