Tesco seeks to boost aquaculture's novel fish feed ingredient use

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/bpperry
© GettyImages/bpperry

Related tags Fish oil DHA Aquaculture

Tesco PLC is looking to algal oil and alternative fish feed ingredients to address the sustainability of farmed fish while it revises company production standards for salmon.

The England-based retail chain announced that it was exploring how to prompt the use of more alternative feed ingredients like algal oil in the diets of the farmed fish it carries. The work is part of a larger effort to address supplying an expanding global population with finite resources, according to company information.

Part of the process has included working with Tesco’s salmon suppliers to support the scale-up and use of more sustainable feed ingredients such as non-fish-based omega-3-rich oils, according to company information. The company has already started to carry fish raised on feed with these types of ingredients produced by a supplier in Norway.

Tesco also is revising its own farmed salmon standards with targets focused on lowering the levels of wild-caught fish used in aquaculture feeds, according to company information. However, the change is one step and shifting the larger aquaculture industry to use alternative ingredients is expected to need a commitment from multiple organizations and businesses.  

“Our aim is to support marine alternative ingredients – e.g. algal oil – which can, in turn, take pressure off marine ecosystems which are providing fish feed,”​ a company spokesperson told us. The shift, however, is not intended to end completely the use of marine-based feed ingredients but be supportive of other alternatives, he added.

“We recognize that the use of fish meal and fish oil can be managed sustainably so we are not currently aiming to move away from this completely,” ​the spokesperson said. “For example, extracting fish oil and fish meal from non-salmonid fish trimmings (off-cuts) that would otherwise be wasted is a good way to use resources and avoid waste.”

Salmon standards and new feed ingredients

The interest in finding and promoting the use of alternative feed ingredients in aquaculture is part of the company’s effort to “address one of the key sustainability issues associated with the salmon industry,”​ said the spokesperson.

“We are working towards an ambitious target for 2019/20 of a Forage Fish Dependency Ration for oil (FFDRo) of <1.75,”​ he said. “We will review this over time and work towards an aspiration for our salmon to have a ‘Fish in Fish Out’ ratio of <1.”

“We are working closely with our supply base and others in industry, such as WWF [World Wildlife Fund] and producers of feed ingredients, to achieve this,”​ he added.

However, the new standards are still in development and, at this time, there is not a fixed date for “rolling out”​ the new versions, the spokesperson said. Adding, “We want to make sure that suppliers are able to make the necessary changes in a manageable and sustainable way, so we are currently consulting with our suppliers.”

The company’s food standards also are set to be audited by a third party, he said.

Industry responses

The proposed changes have already generated some feedback with the WWF sharing its support. The organization has been working with alternative materials in animal and aquaculture feeds for some time.

“The production of ingredients for feeds has significant impacts in regard to land use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss,” ​said Piers Hart, seafood and aquaculture specialist with WWF-UK.

Similarly, Veramaris – a 50:50 joint venture between Royal DSM and Evonik – said it welcomed the news because it signals the current need to address sustainability in aquaculture production.

Veramaris opened​ a commercial production facility for an algal-based omega-3 oil in Nebraska in July. Previously, it had been producing its fish feed ingredient at pilot sites in the US and Slovakia.

Salmon fed on feeds that include the algae oil are being raised by the Norwegian salmon farmer, Lingalaks and are available in some German​ stores.

Alternative feed ingredient efforts

However, there are other feed ingredient companies also working in the space of alternative fish feed ingredients – the Chilean salmon producer, Ventisqueros, is feeding salmon feed created by the Danish feed producer, BioMar, and using AlgaPrime DHA. The ingredient is owned by Corbion and produced in Brazil.

The Norwegian salmon producer, Lerøy, also is using a BioMar feed incorporating AlgaPrime DHA and has decreased the amount of fish oil used in salmon production by 15 to 20%, the company told us previously.

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) launched DHA Natur in 2016 as a ‘DHA-rich’ ingredient and alternative to fish oil use.

Additionally, two companies, Nuseed​ and Cargill​, are working with strains of canola that also produce levels of omega-3 fatty acids as potential alternative oils for use in feed.

Cargill’s request to have the biotech plant approved for planting and production in the US was granted earlier this month by the US Department of Agriculture.

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