Registration for the competition is open to companies based internationally, said Kevin Fitzsimmons, professor in the Department of Soil Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona. He also is one of three event judges.
The organizing group, which includes Monterey Bay Aquarium and the New England Aquarium, along with the University of Arizona, is offering a more than $145,000 reward to the first company that sells 100,000 tons of fishmeal and fish oil-free fish feed, or the group that has come the closest by September of 2017, he told FeedNavigator.
“There have been many of us in aquaculture who have been concerned about the need to find additional, alternative ingredients for fishmeal and fish oil,” he said. “We know the supplies are very limited.”
The goal of the competition is to support innovation of new ingredients to replace both fishmeal and fish oil as the aquaculture industry is likely to continue growing, he said. “We’re using soy, and feather meal, and hydrolyzed feather meal, and algae extracts, but many of us feel that it’s not happening fast enough, that we need to get a lot more of these ingredients into commercial usage,” he added.
Feed mills and manufactures wanting to take part in the competition can register online through April 30, said Fitzsimmons.
Currently, there are 13 organizations from all over the world set to take part, he said. There is no cap on competitors.
Once the registration period ends, participants will be asked to submit a sample of their feed for testing by the judges, he said. They also will need to submit sale numbers and a list of buyers for cross-checking.
“We’ll give a prize to the feed company that sells the most fishmeal and fish oil free diet,” said Fitzsimmons. The amount of the prize has continued to increase as groups donate to the project, he added.
All the money donated is being held in an escrow account at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, he said. Companies can submit sale records for multiple kinds of fish feeds, as long as they all meet competition guidelines.
The F3 organizers will not be asking for feed formulations and any sensitive company information collected for the competition is set to be kept confidential and destroyed at the close, said Fitzsimmons.
“Some of the bigger sponsors are considering a follow-up prize because they’re gratified with the interest generated,” he said. “The sales are starting to pick up [for these feeds] and the aquaculture industry has been moving this way.”
The competition was designed to promote alternative feed ingredients and as a way to potentially help protect fish populations from over-fishing, said Fitzsimmons. Some species of fish have been overused to generate the amounts of marine-based proteins used in feed creation.
“I would expect it’s going to be easier for the companies that are selling tilapia, catfish, or carp [feed] – they’re going to have the advantage to it,” said Fitzsimmons. “They were close to qualifying feeds before. It’s a fairly minor adjustment to meet the requirements – but we’d still like to see the concept adopted across the board.”
There has been research into non-marine protein sources for the production of farmed carnivorous fish like trout and salmon, he said. “The prize is designed so we get publicity and get the information out to farmers that there are perfectly good diets that don’t have fishmeal or fish oil,” he added.
The project also seeks to capitalize on work on alternative ingredients like algae, soy and corn proteins, or single cell proteins that some groups have already done, he said.
The group does support the use of fish by-products left over from processing in fish feed, he said. But for the competition it would be almost impossible to determine the exact nature of any marine-sourced protein in the feed, so the group is requiring none be present.
“We’d love to see this more sustainably farmed seafood have the same cachet as grass-fed beef or free-range chicken, because we think this is the way to go,” he said. “If we can get some of the foodies interested, and to develop the niche market, that would benefit the shrimp farmers, the fish farmers and get that pull and demand.”