F3 organization launches feed challenge for carnivorous fish

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/uzenzen
© GettyImages/uzenzen

Related tags Fishmeal Fish oil Salmon trout shrimp

The F3 group wants industry to take up the challenge of creating a fish-free feed for salmonid, shrimp, and other carnivorous species.

Registration​ has started for this new challenge and is set to run through to April 30.

The upcoming competition is focused on promoting feeds for carnivorous species that don't rely on fishmeal or fish oil use.  

The organizers said crustaceans including shrimp consume roughly 31% of global fishmeal production, while salmonids consume around 23% of global fishmeal and 60% of global fish oil as per 2015-2016 figures​.

“Similar to the first challenge, we are looking for a complete feed made without marine-animal ingredients,” ​competition judges said. “Only this time, the challenge is for those species that have the biggest appetites for fishmeal and fish oil – salmon, trout, shrimp and other emerging carnivorous species.”

Competition judges include Kevin Fitzsimmons, F3 Challenge chair and a professor, the University of Arizona; Michael Tlusty, associate professor, University of Massachusetts Boston; and Ling Cao, associate professor, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and affiliated research scientist at Stanford University.

This is the third of the F3 challenges around developing fish free feeds for aquaculture. 

“As we hold each challenge, we learn more about the bottlenecks for adoption," ​the judges told us.

“As we did last time, we announced the F3 Fish Oil Challenge as the first contest was drawing to a close,” ​they told us. “We launched this new challenge at a similar time to provide contestants ample time to do what they need to internally to register and to keep the fish-free feed momentum going.”

Currently, many forage fish are ground up to feed aquaculture. If the fish at the center of the ocean food chain disappear, so will the life that depends on them. The industry has made tremendous strides to vastly increase the productivity of fishmeal and fish oil, but if it is to expand, most scientists agree that more needs to be done to find alternative ingredients, said the organizers. 

Fish farm owners need new and reliable ingredients to derisk their supply chain, and ensure continued production and growth, they continued. 

The goal of this challenge is to reduce aquaculture’s demand for forage fish by advancing alternative feeds for the industry’s biggest consumers of forage fish. If progress can be made towards finding sustainable, fish-free feeds for these species, then substantial progress can be made towards increasing forage fish populations worldwide, said the F3 team.

The new competition builds off of the work done in the first challenge, they said. “With the first feed competition, we knew that the companies making and selling large volumes of tilapia and carp diets would have an inherent advantage as these fish are primarily herbivores and omnivores."

“The largest consumers of fishmeal and fish oil from forage fish are salmonids, shrimp and other carnivorous species,”​ the judges added. “Converting these species to fish-free diets would have a significant impact on protecting forage fish​.”

Challenge details and timeline

Competitors are tracked based on direct sales or indirect sales through distribution channels.

The timeline for the competition gives participants until April to register, however, the deadline for registering all of the partners in a group entry and providing a sample of the feed to be sold for judging is November 30, 2020. The competition concludes in mid-September 2021.

“We created the timeline to match the timeline of innovation in most companies, to give them ample time to decide to innovate, and then to sell,”​ the judges said.

Currently, competitors have the chance to win a US$35,000 prize for each of the three areas – fish-free salmonid feeds, fish-free shrimp feeds and fish-free feeds for non-salmonid carnivorous species. Each prize will be awarded to the team that has sold the greatest amount of F3 Feeds in their category at the conclusion of the challenge sales periods - August 31, 2021. 

The judges anticipate their being partnerships between feed companies and businesses working with innovative ingredients. 

“Already several of the biggest aqua feed companies have developed feed formulations that would qualify, and we hope that the companies will register for the competition and start selling significant quantities,​” they said. 

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