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Editorial: Full-spectrum sustainability

November 13, 2020  By Mari-Len De Guzman

There is no doubt sustainability is an important component of corporate governance and has become a regular feature in any reputable organization’s corporate social responsibility systems.

This is true for aquaculture, where the trend is shifting towards responsible seafood production, and innovations in technology and process applications are aimed at encouraging more responsible operations with a much reduced carbon footprint. But while much of the focus in recent years have been on developing, refining and mainstreaming sustainable technologies and processes for fish rearing, recent innovations signal a promising progression.

As hatcheries and other land-based aquaculture facilities increase their production output to respond to the growing challenge of food security, the amount of waste generated also increases. Managing aquaculture waste is one of the biggest sustainability challenges of this industry. In Asian aquaculture production, every ton of fish produced can generate an average of 0.8 kilograms of nitrogen and 0.1 kilograms of phosphorous, according to an article from the Global Aquaculture Alliance. That’s equal to the daily waste produced by 73 people.

Feed efficiency is one of the most significant ways aquaculture is reducing waste. Feed manufacturers in recent years have been working continuously to improve feed conversion ratios for farmed fish in an effort to help reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

Waste conversion – from aquaculture waste into useable raw materials for other industries – has also been the subject of a series of technology innovations in recent years. There are several examples of these and many of these innovations originate from startup companies backed by investment firms looking to put money into ventures that are providing sustainable solutions to today’s environmental challenges.

A Tasmanian aquaculture producer has parterned with a nearby cherry orhard to use waste by-product from the fish farm to produce nutrient-rich compost to feed the cherry farm. Norway’s Andfjord Salmon, which is building a 10,000-ton land-based, sea water flow-through salmon farm, has already made arrangements to send its bio-residues to a neighbouring peat moss production facility, which will use it to enhance its production. These are just a couple of examples.

Although they are increasing, sustainable solutions to addressing waste in fish farms are still few and far between, and have yet to make mainstream debut. Bringing down the cost of these innovations will be key in gaining traction.

Sustainable seafood is not just about where the fish comes from or how it is farmed. True sustainability is about responsible production across the full production spectrum: eggs, smolt, feed, water, energy, waste, biomass and people.

Is it possible to create a production system that generates no waste, where every component is captured and re-used? If recent developments and enthusiasm from the world’s most innovative, young entrepreneurs are any indication, then the answer is, Yes. It’s just a matter of time.

Speaking of young, innovative minds, congratulations to this year’s Top 10 Under 40 winners. We received a number of outstanding nominations and I wish we can name all of them. But our editorial team has gone through the submissions and chosen the best of the best. Thank you to Merck Animal Health for sponsoring this year’s program.

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