Bell completes vertical integration aquaculture model with plant-based feed mill

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salmon, Aquaculture

Bell completes vertical integration aquaculture model with plant-based feed mill
US aquaculture firm, Bell Farms, has become a fully integrated fish farm with the completion of a new feed mill at its Indiana base that is set to produce around 907 metric tons (MT) of plant-based fish feed monthly.

Prior to this, Bell, which farms perch, rainbow trout and coho salmon, used commercially available feeds.

The company's aquaculture facility in Indiana also includes a 1,000 MT fish farm, and an in-house processing facility. 

Becky Priebe, marketing director at Bell, told us the installation of the new aqua feed mill is “the last significant milestone in vertical integration. We will expand our operations to increase our production capacity as the market demands.”

Bell plans to sell excess feed to fish farms locally and nationally, as the mill will produce more than the company requires for its own operations. “Around 20% of [the feed] we produce goes to our [own] fish,”​ said Priebe.

The mill means Bell now has control over its own feed, she said. "We undertake a lot of R&D to develop feeds that are sustainable but still meet the needs of the coming food deficit,"​ added Priebe.

Bell said 50 to 60% of the ingredients for the new mill will be sourced locally. It says it uses no fishmeal and very little fish oil in its feeds, and is customizing the ingredients to fit every stage in a fish’s life.

"Feed formulations vary because we produce nutritionally profiled feed so it changes based on species and life cycle but wheat and soy are two of the ingredients that we use,” ​said Priebe.

Sustainable production

The fish producer operates its own hatchery and is aiming for environmental friendly production. The water is filtered in a closed loop RAS system, which is said to recover about 99% of all water used.

And it said it relies on sodium chloride instead of antibiotics to ensure a healthy environment for its fish.

US farmed fish sector

The US is under-performing on the farmed fish front – just over 90% of the seafood consumed by Americans is imported, and only 5% of the farmed seafood eaten there is produced domestically. 

The country ranks 15th in total aquaculture production behind China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Norway, Thailand, Egypt, Chile, Myanmar, Philippines, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea, according to the 2012 UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report on The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture​. 

June saw US President, Barack Obama, launch the five-year National Strategic Plan for Federal Aquaculture Research. 

It was developed to provide a framework for coordination and collaboration across agencies on research, education, and technology transfer programs related to the expansion of the aquaculture sector in the US.

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