The South Dakota-based protein producer received the aquafeed innovation award for ingredients during the 2019 VICTAM International Feed & Grain event following the Aquafeed Horizons technical conference.
Prairie AquaTech was formed in 2009 from an interest to provide an alternative protein to the aquaculture industry. The company’s feed ingredient, ME-PRO, was established through the partnership of South Dakota State University and the investment company South Dakota Innovation Partners.
Prairie AquaTech is a part of South Dakota Innovation Partner’s portfolio.
The company sought to take part in the feed ingredient competition to demonstrate the company’s ingenuity and the “passion and performance” of team members, said John Mollison, vice president of communication with South Dakota Innovation Partners. “The award has also put ME-PRO on the radar screens of feed manufacturers and formulators."
“The aquaculture industry is fueled by innovation,” he told FeedNavigator. “Therefore, when the industry supports moments designed to reward innovation, we’re compelled to compete.”
The feed ingredient is intended to provide an alternative protein for use in fish feeds to reduce reliance on ingredients with contained availability like fishmeal.
“Not many protein ingredients of ME-PRO’s high quality have reached scale,” said Mollison. “This award and operation of our commercial plant are a huge boost of confidence to the feed industry.”
Aquaculture will be the market focus for the feed protein going forward, he said. The feed ingredient has already been tested with several species including shrimp, salmonids and marine species.
“But our overriding strategy is to provide the market with an ingredient that is well sourced, has high performance and positive environmental impact. We are also working with strategic partners in feed manufacturing developing high quality feeds for life stages – imprinting for one – that includes ME-PRO.”
Prairie AquaTech’s protein ingredient is derived from soybeans and is generated using a microbial enhancement and a patented process to increase protein levels.
The ME-PRO ingredient is about 70% protein and has high digestibility, said Mollison. It also has moved past the research and development and pilot stages and is now being produced at the commercial scale.
The feed ingredient was noted, in part, for its link to a reduction in phosphorus discharge from fish, which has positive environmental implications, he said.
“Phosphorus is, of course, essential for the health of the fish in that it powers the formation of the fish’s skeletal system. The problem of phosphorus is when undigested phosphorus is put into the water supply through undigested animal waste.”
However, the phosphorus in the feed ingredient has a good level of digestiblty, he said. "This digestibility allows nutritionists to fine-tune the feed formulation and ensure that the complete feed’s formulation is absolutely effective.".
The ingredient producer started work on a new facility in May 2018 as part of its effort to increase production from the level of 2,000-gallon fermentation tanks to 40,000-gallon production amounts.
The initial market for the feed ingredient is the US as there is a growing Atlantic salmon industry along with trout production, the company told us previously.
“Right now, the plant’s operations are going through due-diligence to ensure that all safety and quality standards are consistently met,” said Mollison. “Production will ramp up to full 30,000 ton/year with the opportunity to quickly expand beyond that as market adoption occurs.”