Cargill gets green-light for omega-3 producing canola

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Baloncici
© GettyImages/Baloncici

Related tags: Canola, Aquaculture, Omega-3 fatty acid, Cargill

Cargill has received approval to grow biotech, omega-3 producing canola, in the US providing the next step in ongoing work to commercialize an alternative ingredient for use in aquaculture feeds.

The Minnesota-based agri-giant announced Wednesday [August 7] that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had approved​ its proprietary canola variety for cultivation in the US.

Mark Christiansen, managing director for Cargill’s specialty oils business, said the production of omega-3-rich canola provides several benefits.

“It addresses the growing gap between the supply and demand for fish oil, as well as the sustainability of our oceans and wild fish supply,”​ he told FeedNavigator. “Aquaculture cannot continue to grow to meet consumer demand without solving the challenge of limited fish oil and environmental stress.”  

“Instead of relying on fish oil harvested from wild oily fish, commercial fish feed producers can now have a reliable supply and predictably priced, alternative source of omega-3,” ​he said. “For crop farmers, omega-3 canola provides a new option for rotation for added income and soil health, as well as a guaranteed market.”

Work on the canola was carried out in partnership with BASF Plant Science, said Christiansen. The German company developed the technology used to integrate genetic material from algae and plants and canola to establish a canola cultivar able to generate omega-3 fatty acids.

“BASF approached Cargill in 2009 seeking to collaborate with us, to help them test, grow, process and market this new canola,”​ he added.

Cargill had been growing test crops of the omega-3 producing canola in Montana since 2015. Now that the plant has been deregulated, the company is moving forward with commercialization efforts for the canola trait in a close-looped supply chain.

“Our goal is to get seed planted for commercial use by 2020, pending regulatory approvals. BASF manages the submissions of regulatory approvals and it has [filed] for FDA and EPA approvals as well,”​ he added.

Salmon trials 

Cargill ran early feeding trials​ using the plant-produced oil with salmon in Chile. In those tests, the company completely replaced fish oil in rations.

Use, market and commercialization

Cargill claims the canola derived oil provides about as much long-chain omega-3s – including EPA, DHA and DPA - as the oil generated by about 200 anchovies.

“Oil from this new canola contains the same omega-3 fatty acids as those found in fish oil,” ​he said. “Fresh and saltwater feed trials have shown that 100% percent of fish oil can be replaced … in commercial salmon feed with no effect on salmon’s growth rates, health or content of omega-3 in its fillet.”

The initial aquaculture sector the company is targeting is commercial salmon farming, in Chile he said. It will then target shrimp production.

Cargill sought approval to grow the canola in the US because of growing conditions in Montana and the company’s history of working in that state, Christiansen said.

“Cargill has been growing this canola in test plots in Montana, where Cargill has a dedicated facility and team to provide support and expertise,” ​he said. “Upon regulatory clearance, this canola will initially be grown in Montana and then expand to other states and Canada as the program grows.”

It is unclear at this point where the commercial processing will be done, but several facilities are being explored, he said. “We expect that the resulting meal after the canola is crushed will be put into the existing commodity meal stream for feed, primarily cattle, pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)."

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