Cargill invests $10.5m in Chilean fish research facility

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Cargill
© Cargill

Related tags: Omega-3 fatty acid, Aquaculture, Fatty acid

Disease prevention and improved functional diets are among the focuses for a new Cargill fish research center in Chile.

The company has invested $10.5m in a new health and nutrition research facility, replacing a smaller research operation, said Hugo Contreras, managing director for Cargill Aqua Nutrition in Chile.

The center is set to work on improving functional fish diets and salmon diseases affecting the aquaculture industry in Chile.

“The intent of us investing in the research facility is to try and contribute to solving [challenges] around diseases,”​ he told FeedNavigator. “How can we help with that?”

The decision to make an investment for research in Chile happened in about 2014, said Contreras. Work to build the new center started about a year ago.

“There’s a significant area for running trials [and the] ability to do trials in parallel rather than waiting,” ​he said. “The benefit is the emphasis on speed and coming to market with the products.”

The new facility is about 32,000 square feet, and has a current staff of 30, the company said. It has about 100 tanks for use with controlled trials and can process about 140 tons of water an hour in its bio-security system.

Disease challenges

Research efforts have already started, said Contreras. “We already had a facility here in Chile – what happened [through this] investment is we significantly expanded our facilities,”​ he added.

A pipeline of initiatives also has been generated, he said. Goals include developing products to address major salmon diseases like Caligidoisis, caused by sea lice, and SRS.

SRS is accountable for about 79% of salmon mortality and often the reason antibiotics are used in production in Chile, said the company.  

Antibiotic replacements for fish is also a priority, added Contreras.

The new facility will explore in detail the relationship between fish health and nutrition, he said. The team will work on ways to provide the needed building blocks for fish development while minimizing effects from stressors.

By supporting fish growth and development, nutrition can be used to help fish resist bacteria or a virus that prevents the animal from developing or being healthy, said Contreras.

However, the Chilean research center likely won’t be looking at feed specifics like altering the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in fish diets.

Regional selection

The company is focusing on developing research abilities in Chile because of the presence of the farmed salmon market and the disease challenges present, said Contreras. The Chilean salmon market is the second largest globally, so it is relevant to the overall industry.

The projects are aimed at providing support to the industry, he said. “Diseases overall in the salmon industry are a big issue – especially in Chile it’s a significant cost, [a] significant use of antibiotics, [and the] challenges in cost are preventing the growth of the industry,”​ he added.

Research is expected to benefit the global industry in the long term, he said. While initial work is focused on salmon, there are some longer-term plans to potentially expand the studies to include other species farmed species, like shrimp or tilapia.

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