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F3 Fish-Free Feed Challenge: US team stresses ecological focus of contest

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Aerin Curtis

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

Last updated on 11-Jan-2017 at 12:19 GMT2017-01-11T12:19:15Z

© iStock/phototechno
© iStock/phototechno

An ongoing international aquaculture feed competition is supporting new ideas for feed formulation and may help improve the long term sustainability of the aquaculture industry, says a US participant.  

The F3 Fish-Free Feed Challenge was started to support the use of fishmeal and fish oil free aquaculture diets. There are eight teams from several different countries, including the US, taking part in the event.

Competition organizers also set up a dissemination workshop in California this week for those involved.   

The US team includes the US companies TwoXSea, Star Milling, Alltech and TerraVia.

Bill Cramer, president of Star Milling, a member of the US team, said: “We’re the manufacturing part of (it), the nutrition side of it was all developed by TwoXSea." 

Star Milling was brought into the team to make the fishmeal and fish oil free feed, he told us. However, the design of the vegetarian diet was done by other team members.

“This competition is very special,” said Cramer. “But we’ve been making diets for warm water fish for 30 years. We’re known in the industry, that’s why they reached out to us to help them manufacture.”

Challenge overview

The competition started in November, 2015 and is set to run through 15 September of 2017, or until one of the groups is able to generate and sell 100,000 metric tons of fishmeal and fish oil free feed, said group. It is being sponsored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, New England Aquarium, University of Arizona and World Bank.

The first group to reach that goal are set to receive $200,000 in prize money, the organization said.

The competition is open to all companies that brand and sell aquaculture feeds, the group said. However, companies also could partner for the challenge.

Feeds generated and sold could be used for any aquaculture production species, the organization said. The feeds did not have to be vegetable in nature, but, they did have to be free of any marine protein source or by-products.

Sustainability efforts

The contest has been an interesting one to take part in because of the discussion it has helped to generate about alternative ingredients that don’t put stress on ocean resources, said Cramer. 

“What we’re trying to do is find answers, so we can provide food for people in a more sustainable way – that’s really the top view of this whole thing,” he said. “With that comes [questions such as] how are we going to do that? What ingredients are we going to use?”

Once the ‘code is broken’ in terms of finding viable, alternative diets, it could make aquaculture production similar to raising terrestrial animals, he said. 

“The new ingredients that will become available, particularly algal ingredients and many other products that will be coming online, [they] are expensive now,” said Cramer. “But as the technology gets developed, we’ll be able to manufacture a new set of feeds for aquaculture that don’t put a strain on world fisheries.”

Cramer said he is not sure which team will ultimately be successful, but ultimately, he added, that is only a small part of the larger idea.

“As far as the competition, that’s a lot of tonnage, and there may be some of the large foreign manufacturers able to put that tonnage together,” he said. “In Asia, the aquaculture industry is much larger than the US.”

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