UK retail giant Tesco announced it would be adopting algal-fed salmon as part of its new salmon standards.
For Veramaris CEO Karim Kurmaly, the decision signals a sea change in retailer thinking, and he told Undercurrent News at the AquaNor 2019 event that he hoped it would be the first of many such policies from global retailers.
“I think Tesco have understood that salmon is a vital category for them, and they’ve taken steps to ensure it continues to be sustainable,” Kurmaly said.
“What we see now is that Tesco has created a momentum that other retailers will find it difficult to ignore.”
Indeed, Veramaris, the Netherlands-based joint venture of Royal DSM and Evonik Industries, reportedly has similar arrangements planned with two unnamed major retailers in the EU, as well as plans in the US and Japan — although it should be noted that none of these algal oil sourcing policies would ask specifically for Veramaris feed.
“The supply chain of salmon is not as simple as, say, the chicken industry. It’s quite complicated. So, you need the farmer, the feed miller, the processor, the distributor, and the retailer to work in collaboration. That’s basically what we’re doing now, and we hope there will be more news coming out soon,” Kurmaly said.
Growing attention from the top of the industry
Over the past year, Veramaris has industrially produced an omega-3 rich fish oil alternative derived from the algal strain Schizochytrium. The company’s key selling point, which it claims distinguishes it from the competition, is that it is the only firm to offer algal oil containing both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a highly concentrated form.
Speaking to Undercurrent in July after the opening of its commercial-sized feed plant in Blair, Nebraska, Kurmaly claimed the company could satisfy 15% of the salmon industry’s total demand for the two fatty acids.
Earlier this year, Norwegian salmon farmer Lingalaks went public in its use of Veramaris’ alternative algal oil within its salmon feed.
The Dutch feed venture, which operates a small-scale plant in Slovakia and two in the US, is also in talks to sell algal feed to a land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) salmon farmer, Kurmaly said.
In the increasingly competitive RAS market, Kurmaly hopes the use of algal oil feed will be taken by land-based farmers as a means to set their fish apart with consumers.
“One particular RAS company not only wants to talk about production sustainability in terms of environmental impact, etc, but they also want to both enhance their nutritional impact and reduce the amount of fish oil in their feed. So, we are collaborating with them,” he told Undercurrent at the AquaNor show.
Although Veramaris’ algal oil could potentially be used for all manner of farmed species, Kurmaly was clear that the firm’s focus in the immediate future was on growing its client base within typical European farmed fish species.
“We are working with marine fish because the marine fish is usually exported to Europe, where we already have a very good tie-in with retailers,” the Veramaris CEO said. “So now we’re trying to connect those retailers to those farmers to ensure that this new technology passes up that value chain.”
However, the world of shrimp remains a more challenging prospect for the venture, not least because, for the farmers of the Asia-Pacific region, a small price premium over traditional fish oils makes a huge difference to the bottom line.
According to Kurmaly, the company is currently going through the process of clearing registration requirements in several Asian countries, after which it intends to enter and investigate the shrimp supply chain.
“So, we will engage with the shrimp industry and look at what we can do — but for the moment the primary focus is salmon, pet food and marine fish like sea bass and sea bream,” he added.