Memorial-partnered research leads to approval for camelina oil fish feed
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has approved the use of mechanically-extracted camelina oil as a feed ingredient for farmed salmon and trout.
The decision follows a recently completed large-scale study of camelina oil managed by Genome Atlantic. Dr. Chris Parrish, Department of Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science, was one of the study’s principal researchers.
Camelina sativa, or false flax, is a hardy oilseed plant that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and antioxidants. This super-nutritious plant is used as a vegetable oil for human consumption and as an ingredient or supplement in some animal feeds.
Fish feed manufacturers have also explored the use of crop-based oilseeds like camelina as viable and cost-efficient substitutes for wild-sourced fish oils and proteins currently used in fish feeds.
The study, which was supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)’s Atlantic Innovation Fund, found camelina to be an excellent match to the fatty acid composition required in the diets of farmed fish. Backed by this compelling evidence, Genome Atlantic applied to the CFIA for approval of camelina oil for use in fish feeds.
“Genome Atlantic and its partners have transformed a tiny seed into a big opportunity, creating an innovative, alternative solution with long-term benefits to industry,” said Navdeep Bains, minister, Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and minister responsible for ACOA.
Dr. Parrish says camelina oil has characteristics which make it a particularly promising alternative in fish diets.
“Among the oils that can be used to replace fish oil in aquafeeds, camelina is one of the few with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids,” he said.
“While these omega-3 fatty acids are different to those present in fish oils, they enhance the ability of fish to synthesize the healthful long-chain, omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for their optimal growth. This, in turn, ensures a healthful fillet for human consumers.”
Another of the study’s principal researchers, Dr. Claude Caldwell of Dalhousie University, explains that the scientists found camelina oil to be sufficiently nutritious to replace all the fish oil in feeds, as well as some of the ground fish meal.
“The use of wild-sourced fish to feed the farmed fish is not sustainable either ecologically or economically. Camelina could be a viable alternative,” he said.
Considering that aquaculture companies spend 50-70 per cent of their budgets on feed, finding a high-quality, lower cost source of oil could mean significant savings.
While the CFIA’s recent approval only covers camelina oil, Dr. Caldwell and his Dalhousie team are currently conducting feeding trials for the CFIA on camelina meal.
“Camelina meal can’t entirely replace fish meal used in fish feeds, but it could replace some of that meal,” he said.