Intensifying the search for more sustainable aquafeeds

Intensifying the search for more sustainable aquafeeds

Among the 20 industry, government, academic and trade groups supporting the project are BioMar, Evonik and InnovaSea.

“Protein is by far the most important ingredient that determines the growth rate of fish,” said Dr. Lynn Weber, a professor of veterinary biomedical sciences at USask and co-leader of the project, in a press release. “It’s cost #1 in feed and feed is cost #1 in aquaculture.”

Fishmeal is made from the grinding of fish species that are considered undesirable for human consumption or from the remains of fish processing.


To cut costs, feed manufacturers have looked to soy protein as an alternative, but the demand as a food for humans has made soy expensive. Making the problem worse is that soy contains anti-nutrients that damage the gut of fish unless the beans are processed to remove the harmful elements.

According to Weber, ingredients like fava beans and peas make for a better protein alternative. She, along with colleagues such as Dr. Matt Loewen researched the use of new processing methods, such as yeast fermentation, to remove anti-nutritional factors from legumes. Research by some team members using insect proteins derived from sources such as fly larvae also looks promising, she said.

Located in the heart of a province that produces an abundance of peas, fava beans and other potential feed ingredients, USask is uniquely equipped to house the proposed Aquafeed Testing Facility, Weber said.

The university has world-class experts in the development and processing of animal feed ingredients, along with leading scientists in the fields of toxicology, environmental studies, artificial intelligence (AI), and animal physiology, nutrition and behavioral sciences collaborating on the project.

“The test facility will have some fundamental research aspects related to nutrition, ecotoxicology and AI, but essentially it will be a contract facility where we hope to bring in industrial partners and commission them to develop new feed ingredients and feed for aquaculture,” said Weber.

“These companies are interested enough to support the project directly now, but once we have the facility set up and the news comes out, I expect it to grow rapidly to become the go-to place globally as there are such One lacks all the unique expertise we have,” Weber said.

The group is requesting $3.7 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which is 40 percent of the $9.3 million needed to refurbish USask’s current Toxicology Center to house the new facility. State and federal agencies, USask and in-kind support from suppliers are expected to contribute $5.6 million.

The flow-through aquarium system at the current toxicology center will be replaced with a recirculating aquaculture system with a large biofilter that will reduce water consumption by as much as 90 percent, she said.

Each of the 30 new feed test tanks will hold 20 or more market-sized fish, such as trout and tilapia, and will be equipped with continuous water quality sensors and in-tank cameras to accurately track feed rates, responses to new feed ingredients, behavior and growth, with using AI technology. The rest of the facility will have other, larger tanks to hold fish that are not currently in trials.

The facility at USask would enable the full value-added agriculture business cycle in Saskatchewan and create lucrative new markets for Canadian-grown crops, Weber said.


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