Coronavirus outbreak delays aqua feed contest kick-off

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Natali_Mis
© GettyImages/Natali_Mis

Related tags Coronavirus covid-19 Aquaculture novel feed ingredient Fishmeal

Registration for the Future of Fish Feed’s carnivorous fish feed sales competition is being extended to allow for challenges stemming from the ongoing, global COVID-19 outbreak.

The registration​ for the Future of Fish Feed (F3) competition is being extended beyond the initial April 30 deadline and a revised timeline is set to be shared in the future, the organization said. A series of webinars planned for March 30 and 31 and set to provide additional details about the competition has also been postponed until the new schedule is established.

“Due to the fast-changing situation with COVID-19, the F3 Team has made the decision to extend the registration period for the F3 Challenge - Carnivore Edition,”​ the group told FeedNavigator. “Companies may continue to register until a new deadline is announced.”

The delayed webinars are intended to provide answer questions and provide information regarding “the rules of the contest, the benefits to be derived, and our own rules regarding the protection of any information the participants share with us while conducting the contest,”​ the team said.

The new feed sales challenge is open to aqua feed producers selling fish-free feed intended for use with carnivorous aquaculture species including salmonids, shrimp and other carnivorous fish, the organization said. Previously, the group ran similar competitions looking at sales of fish-free feeds and fish-free fish oil. 

The F3 organization is a collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), researchers and private partnerships seeking to increase the pace of commercialization for novel aqua feeds and feed ingredients that can be used to replace the reliance on wild-caught fish.

Competition influence

The competitions have started to generate “longer-term impacts,”​ team members said.

“We are seeing that companies and researchers are much more aware of the F3 problem,” ​the team said. “Secondly, through the F3 team and through meetings, connections have been made to accelerate promising substitute ingredients and market F3 feeds.”

“We need to create the social license for why we can support aquaculture production in ways that lessen impacts,” ​they added. “We are currently engaging with markets, so they know the options that are available, and they know how to ask for specific products.”

The new competition was designed to challenge the industry, the F3 team said. A previous competition focused on sales of fish-free feeds was considered “easy” ​by some as producers only had to “remove fishmeal and fish oil from tilapia and carp [diets].”

“While these species use small inclusions of fishmeal (~2%), there are global gains that can be made because of the large volumes of feed milled for these species,” ​the team said. “For this challenge, we are focusing on salmon, shrimp, and other carnivorous species that have greater inclusions of fishmeal and fish oil.”

The organization’s first competition, which focused on aquaculture diets, did include a trout producer, group members said. “Our goal is to show that we can create suitable formulated F3 diets for aquaculture for many of the high-end species and save forage fish resources which provide critical ecosystem services and support a diversity of marine animals,”​ they added.

An additional interest in reducing the reliance on the use of fishmeal and fish oil in aquaculture diets is that the shift away from those ingredients positions companies to continue growing regardless of changes in the supply from forage fisheries, the team said. “A recent study​ found that if ‘business as usual’ continues, forage fisheries will reach ecological limits by 2037.”

Competition details

The organization behind the contest had already started fielding several repeat questions, the team said.

The queries related to the costs involved in taking part in the competition and whether data about company sales would be protected, the group said.

The only cost for participates is tied to submitting a feed sample as fees for testing are covered by competition organizers, the team said. The sales data provided is protected, as only total sales per quarter are reported.

“The sales report (buyer and volume) shared with us is only used to ensure the accuracy of the sales figures,” ​the F3 team said. “We do not share the information and it is deleted once the winner is identified.”

Several teams have already entered two of the competition’s three categories, team members said. The hope is that many more will register.

Unlike the organization’s previous competitions, the carnivorous project will provide a series of prizes for producers working with different species, according to competition information.

“This is the first time that we have awarded multiple prizes during the F3 competition,”​ the F3 team said. However, salmon and shrimp production have different systems as many salmon producers are large, vertically-integrated companies and shrimp has a few large producers but many more small or medium-sized enterprises.

Focusing the competition by species group also allows for more recognition of producers working with non-salmonid species like seriola, cobia or grouper.

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