The new unit is called Skretting Aquaculture Innovation (AI), with it able to tap into €20m (US$22.8m) set aside annually by the business for investment in innovation.
Alex Obach, innovation director, stressed that Skretting has great diversity in its clients, the species farmed, and the ingredients available, and, as such, the fish feed producer recognizes that there are innovation areas that can add value across the board, including sustainability, life start, health, ingredients and more.
“Complex problems require complex (multifunctional) solutions and cannot be solved with only one type of expertise but require different disciplines to work together."
Sustainability has always been a core component in the development of Skretting’s nutritional products, commented Jorge Diaz, Skretting sustainability manager.
“However, we see that the sustainability agenda is evolving faster than ever and that means that we must also adapt to keep embedding environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria into our [R&D activities]. There is a big focus within the industry on trying to reduce the carbon footprint of feed, but, at the same time, we need to look at the trade-offs that this could bring in terms of impact on biodiversity and fish and shrimp health and performance," he told FeedNavigator.
The social impact of Skretting’s operations, throughout its supply chain, in relation to human rights and living wages, for example, will also inform decision-making at Skretting AI, added Diaz.
And the team intends to explore what disciplines such as phytotechnology, biotechnologies and physical chemistry can offer in support of its R&D efforts.
“Phytotechnology is the application of plants to engineering and science problems, whereas biotechnology involves using biological systems, mainly microorganisms, to develop new solutions. There is a lot we can learn from a better understanding of the communication between kingdoms (animalia, plantae, fungi and eubacteria).
"And by gaining greater insight into nutrients – vitamins and minerals - we can hopefully increase their physiological effects such as bioavailability, and transport and distribution in biological systems,” said Obach.
The team can also leverage any new technologies that Nutreco’s breakthrough investment arm, NuFrontiers, secures, keeping Skretting AI at the forefront of cutting-edge innovation:
“A lot of the innovations in these areas are driven by startups and, therefore, an open innovation approach like the one we are following with NuFrontiers is essential to get in contact with the right technology suppliers. An example of this is the agreement we signed recently with Proteon to look to bacteriophages as potential replacers for antibiotics,” noted Obach.
The biggest challenges facing aquaculture today are ingredients - availability, sustainability, and logistics - along with health challenges, and circularity, he added. “We have a clear roadmap to address these challenges, and a dynamic and dedicated team making it happen.”