Prairie AquaTech is developing an enhanced microbial conversion to produce high-protein feed that is converted into pellets for aquaculture.
Bill Gibbons, an industrial microbiologist and professor at South Dakota State University says the fact is the world needs to double its food production in the next 20 to 30 years, and fish is likely to be an increasingly important source of protein. Shellfish and fish consumption are on the rise, in part because of improving standards of living in parts of the world, and in part because of a feed conversion for fish.
Hence, the price of feed ingredient has been increasing rapidly as demands increases while supply remains stagnant. Traditionally, aquaculture has been heavily dependent on increasingly expensive fishmeal as a protein source, accounting for 40 to 50 percent of the total feed for aquaculture.
In the 1960s, the chicken and hog industries consumed most of the fishmeal. By 2010, nearly 80 percent of the world fishmeal went to aquaculture. Fishmeal prices have increased from $700 per ton in 2004 to $2,000 per ton and some experts say it will go to $3,000 per ton within five years.
The newly designed feed ingredient is considered as a sustainable, alternative to fishmeal. The soy-based feed ingredient uses a microbial enhancement process to improve available protein levels in soybean meal.
The problem is the plant-based feeds have fiber and anti-nutritional factors irritate stomachs of fish, and can even kill them. In 2010, Gibbons did some limited trials and found the organisms were effective in reducing the sugar and fiber levels, and boosted the protein levels significantly. On a dry matter basis, conventional soybean meal yields about 50 to 52 percent protein. Gibbons’ process boosts that level to almost 70 percent.
“With fishmeal, for every pound of protein going in, the fish use about 78 percent of that and convert that into fish,” Gibbons said. “In our trials, almost 100 percent of that going in, ending up in the fish.” That not only cuts fish food costs, but it also means nutrients that aren’t absorbed by the fish don’t go into the water.
There is a global race to create new fish foods for the aquaculture business. Raw soybean meal costs $400 per ton. By adding another $400 to $500 per ton in processing costs, the product likely can compete in the market at $1,500 per ton.