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Canadian research team developing alternative fish food

September 19, 2022  By Nestor Arellano

A research team from Canada’s University of Saskatchewan (USask) is gearing up to develop an alternative fish food product that with the aim of reducing production cost for manufacturers while preventing the depletion of fish species currently used for fishmeal.

The group is partnering with an array of industry groups to establish a “globally unique” facility on campus develop and test to plant- and insect-derived proteins to replace the fishmeal that has no great substitute in aquaculture feed today, according to a press release from the university.

Among the 20 industry, government, academic, and trade groups supporting the project are global companies such as BioMar AS of Denmark, Evonik of Germany, and Boston-based InnovaSea.

“Protein by far is the No. 1 ingredient that determines fish growth rate,” said Dr. Lynn Weber (PhD), professor of veterinary biomedical sciences at USask’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine and co-leader of the project. “It is the No. 1 cost in feed, and feed is the No. 1 cost in aquaculture.”


Declining wild fish stocks are driving up consumer demand for commercially grown fish and seafood, and with it the need for cheaper and environmentally sustainable alternatives to fishmeal, Weber said.  Many fish food manufacturers still use fishmeal made from wild caught fish species. The practice depletes wild fish stock, is unsustainable and is harmful to the environment, she said.

Other feed manufacturers have looked to soy protein as an alternative, she said. But the demand as a human food has made soy expensive. Worsening the problem is that soy contains compounds called anti-nutritional factors that destroy fish guts unless the beans are processed to remove the harmful elements.

However, ingredients such as such as fava beans and peas provide a better protein alternative, said Weber, who has done research with colleagues such as Dr. Matt Loewen (DVM, PhD)—a project collaborator—on using novel processing methods such as fermentation with yeast, to remove anti-nutritional factors from legumes. Research by some team members using insect protein derived from sources such as fly larvae also looks promising, said Weber.

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