The collaborative project is aimed at developing an alternative to the finite source of fish oil for the farmed fish sector, thereby boosting its sustainability profile.
As global supplies of fish oil remain static or decline and demand for aqua feed grows over the next decade, so too does the need to find alternative sources of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are an essential factor for human health.
Substitution of fish oil by alternatives such as rapeseed oil contributes to the energy requirements of the salmon diet, but does not provide marine omega-3. Algae are said to offer scientists exciting potential as a sustainable future source of EPA and DHA for use in salmon feed.
DSM communications spokesperson, Herman Betten, said the fish feed collaboration will leverage the competencies of both DSM in algae cultivation and Evonik in large scale fermentation and amino acid production.
But he would not be drawn on the marine algae source being used, the type of production or location of facility involved or the levels of DHA or EPA or both being aimed for: “The groundwork on this project is only getting underway. However, we will be able to report on progress in greater detail by Q4 2015.”
Likewise, Jürgen Krauter, Evonik spokesperson, told us it was “too early” to determine when the project was likely to reach fruition.
Marine microalgae are already used commercially in higher value nutraceutical, cosmetic and food products. November 2013 saw DSM launched the first high-potency vegetarian DHA and EPA omega-3 oil for human nutrition developed from an algal source.
EPA and DHA replacement projects
Alex Obach, managing director at Skretting Aquaculture Research Centre (ARC), talking to this publication in February, said that almost 70% of fish oil in salmon diets today is being replaced by vegetable derived oils such as rapeseed oil in Europe. Poultry oil is widely used as a salmon feed substitute in the Americas and Asia, he added.
But fish oil’s essential nutrients, EPA and DHA, are not so easily substituted, said Obach.
“A lot of investigation is underway in the area of fermentation of microalgae, but much work still needs to be done in terms of strain selection to find ones that are rich in EPA or DHA or both, along with extensive trials in various fish species.
Yields and productivity need to be improved and price per ton has a long way to go before microalgae could be placed on a competitive footing with fish oil,” he said.
But Obach said with patent protection on the technologies involved coming to an end, a lot more players are entering that market, and this should support further optimization of the process.
“Essentially, it will have to come down to a balance between DHA and EPA composition in microalgae and yields,” he said.
Norwegian fish feed producer, EWOS, meanwhile is also involved in going research collaboration in the area of developing substitutes to marine EPA and DHA sources.
For example, it has a central role in the CO2BIO project - a network of stakeholders from industry and academia that aims to use cleaned carbon dioxide emissions from the Mongstad oil refinery in Norway to produce algae for fish feed.
The Norwegian Parliament awarded the project $1 million in funding for a pilot plant that would use CO2 captured at the CO2 Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM).
Construction of the 300-square-metre algae production test facility was scheduled for completion in early 2015 but Svein Nordvik, who manages the project, said the build has been delayed until August. “We will have the opening ceremony at the beginning of 2016 and will then start the R&D work based on algae and CO2 from TCM,” he said.