The judges and cosponsors of F3: Fish-Free Feed Challenge competition are the University of Arizona, Monterey Bay Aquarium, the New England Aquarium and World Bank.
The winner of the challenge will be the first team to sell 100,000 metric tons of fish feed lacking any fishmeal or fish oil or the group coming closest by September of 2017, said Kevin Fitzsimmons, professor at the University of Arizona and one of the event organizers.
“There are lots of these companies out there that have good science behind them that say we can use these ingredients and substitute for fishmeal and fish oil, but a lot are small and having a hard time getting banks or venture capitalists to back their (work),” he told FeedNavigator. “If we can raise their profile through the contest, through introductions that could be made, this could be a great secondary aspect to the contest.”
Winners of the competition are set to get a crowd-funded reward of about $200,000, he said.
The challenge initially started as a way to bring different organizations together to support innovation and development within the aquaculture sector and offer an alternative presentation, said Fitzsimmons. “We were talking about what can we do? And they were talking about maybe funding research, but there is research out there already,” he added.
“We need to work together to encourage sustainable practices and use products that are the best at protecting the environment,” he said. The effort focuses on reducing the reliance on fishmeal and fish oil because wild populations of fish used to produce those feed ingredients are being over-harvested, he added.
There was some initial pushback from companies interested in the contest asking for the ability to include 1-2% fish meal or oil, he said. But, no accommodation was made.
There also were some questions about the diets as the feed sold could be for any species involved in aquaculture production, he said. “We wanted to keep it wide open so that any sector of the industry could participate, but we know that doing a tilapia diet would be a lot easier than a salmon diet,” he added.
Of the groups and companies that registered for the ongoing competition, eight have been selected to go forward, said Fitzsimmons. Most of them are working in teams.
Many of the teams were created to fit the feed sale metric involved in the competition, he said.
“Several of the groups that registered were the ingredient suppliers, or farms that sold more sustainability farmed animals and what we did was provide a little of a match-making service, [suggesting] you guys should partner with this feed company, because it’s the feed company sales that will be the winner, not the company that sold the most algae meal or insect meal,” he said.
The multi-national teams include competitors from Gibraltar, South Africa, China, Myanmar, Austria, Pakistan, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Thailand and Belgium, reported the organizing group. The US team includes several companies like TwoXSea, Star Milling, Alltech and TerraVia.
The feeds being generated for the competition cover several species – rainbow trout, tilapia, carp, shrimp and dace, the organizers said.
The next step in the competition will be for competitors to submit initial sales receipts to the judges at a meeting in January, said Fitzsimmons.
It appears that the competition may not end with the awarding of the prize, said Fitzsimmons. Instead, the group is already looking at ways to provide knowledge regarding alternative aquaculture diets to producers in multiple parts of several parts of the world.
“[We are] talking about doing a second prize, but we’re still trying to figure out what the metric would be, and doing a second part of the whole thing, which would be a feed information center,” he said. “One of the situations is that fish farmers, shrimp farmers have been told to know a good diet is it should smell of fish meal and get a little oil off it (when you touch it), but there’s a lot of science that says if you put together a proper nutrition – you can put together a perfectly nutritious diet without fish oil or fishmeal – if you can find other ingredients that give you the same nutrients.”
The contest committee also is arranging meetings for contestants with other members of the financial and aquaculture industry, he said.