New fish feed plant in Kenya: ‘The stage is set for a blue revolution’

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© istock/Byelikova_Oksana
© istock/Byelikova_Oksana

Related tags Fish feed Aquaculture Africa Fish

Skretting, Nutreco’s fish feed division, is lending its expertise to a new tilapia feed plant in Kenya run by animal and human nutrition product developer, Unga Holdings.

“We are not investing capital in the facility, but provide knowledge and expertise on feed formulation, production and marketing,”​ Mark Woldberg, corporate spokesperson for Nutreco, told us.

Frans-MAkken Dutch ambassador to Kenya
Cabinet secretary of the Kenyan ministry of agriculture, livestock and fisheries department, Willy Bett, at the official opening of the Unga Holdings Ltd fish feed factory in Nairobi, Kenya, alongside Frans Makken, the ‎Dutch ambassador to Kenya.

The factory has the capacity to produce 5,000 tons of high quality extruded floating fish feed annually for the East African market, he said. It will targeting tilapia production first and then the growing catfish market

Skretting is one of many players involved in the setting up of the extruded feed plant in Nairobi, developed as part of the Dutch public/private partnership, FoodTechAfrica that is looking to stimulate fish farming in East Africa.

Dutch companies Ottevanger Milling Engineers and Almex Extrusion designed and manufactured the facility’s equipment. 

Some 14 public and private entities, in total, are involved in FoodTechAfrica. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides co-financing to the consortium’s activities.

The partners said it is the first factory in the region producing feed of the quality needed to increase East African fish farmers’ production efficiency.  

Blue Revolution 

Wouter van Vliet, director and partner at Larive International, in a blog piece noted:

“To date, most government and donor programs have aimed at stimulating aquaculture in East Africa by focusing on smallholder farms and stimulating their output.

"However, fish feeds make up roughly 70% of the cost for a fish farmer. So, not having local fish feed production is like having a ‘truck without an engine'. It’s hard to get moving. With the combined expertise of Ottevanger Milling Engineers, Almex, Skretting and Unga, a state-of-the art fish feed facility is being established, producing high-quality feed in the heart of East Africa, Kenya.”

Worldwide, aquaculture now actually produces more than what we catch from the wild. However, not (yet) so in Africa, he added.

Of the worldwide aquaculture output, only 2.5% is farmed in Africa, according to the FAO. Most of this is concentrated in two countries, Nigeria and Egypt.

“Contrast that with an African population set to rise from 1 to 2 billion (>20% of the world’s population) and the stage is set for a blue revolution,”​ said van Vliet.

Sustainability goals

He said Africa is under the spotlight when it comes to global food security, but that is best achieved by sustainable local production:

“Thus, it is important to look inland, towards sustainably farming freshwater fish. For this reason, FoodTechAfrica was established. We created and put in place an approach toward creating a sustainable aquaculture sector in East Africa, starting with the basics: feed, fingerlings, sustainable production systems and processing.”

He said fish farming requires breeds developed specifically for aquaculture, a goal of FoodTechAfrica for production in the region: “Using improved varieties of tilapia increases breeding success, fish growth rates and their survival and success in aquaculture systems. Breeding programs can help in both food security efforts and in increasing the socio-economic benefits of tilapia farming.”

In terms of sustainability efforts, he said the FoodTechAfrica partners also developed a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) specifically for application in the region: “This system operates by filtering water from the fish tanks so it can be reused. This dramatically reduces the amount of water and space required to intensively produce fish. The steps in RAS include solids removal, ammonia removal, CO2 removal and oxygenation. Also, the system simulates a stress-free environment for the fish, reducing mortalities and improving the feed conversion, growth rates and quality.” 

Africa on Nutreco's radar 

Nutreco entered Africa in 2001 by acquiring a share of the Egyptian company Hendrix Misr, which came under full ownership in 2013 and was renamed Skretting Egypt.

The past few years has seen the company invest in joint ventures in tilapia feed production in both Egypt and Zambia, and it has ploughed funds into a catfish feed manufacturing partnership in Nigeria.

Earlier this year, Rob Kiers, managing director, Nutreco Africa, told FeedNavigator that, despite the evident challenges, the continent was firmly on the company’s investment radar in terms of aquaculture opportunities given the exploding population demographics, access to waters and local feed raw materials.

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