Norwegian company brings cool concept to live feed

Matt Jones
July 26, 2017
By Matt Jones
A size comparison between juvenile lumpfish from the same egg batch – the ones on the left were fed traditional dry starter feed, the larger ones on the right were fed live Cryoplankton.
A size comparison between juvenile lumpfish from the same egg batch – the ones on the left were fed traditional dry starter feed, the larger ones on the right were fed live Cryoplankton.

As the arms race to develop more efficient and effective live feeds for hatchery applications continues Norway’s Planktonic AS has developed a unique approach which they say could be a game-changer for the industry.

The process includes a method for harvesting large amounts of plankton from the ocean, which is then cryopreserved. The plankton is packed in sacks of 600g, corresponding to about 30 million plankton individuals, and these are stored in thermos flasks with liquid hydrogen. When this feed is to be used, it is thawed in seawater, and the plankton then becomes live again and therefore constitutes a natural feed for the juvenile fish.

The right stuff

“The right marine fatty acids in the earliest live stages are crucial in order to release the potential for growth in marine fish,” says Rune Husby, CEO of Planktonic AS. “Natural zooplankton contains these fatty acids and is such a superior feed to any other feed type out there. This is well documented in literature and publications, but there has been no effective way of presenting such a feed to marine hatcheries that made industrial sense. Until now.”

Husby says that to utilize their live feed, a hatchery manager need only throw the cryopreserved nauplii into sea water and within eight hours they are ready for use. A much simpler, less expensive and less time consuming process, Husby says, than cultivating a batch of rotifers or hatching artemia cysts or cultivating algae for feed.

Maximizing the gains

“Less work, faster growth, improved pigmentation and reduced mortality will certainly contribute to better economics for the hatchery manager,” says Husby. “In addition, reduced microbiological activity in the fish tanks reduce the need for cleaning the tanks. The fish will experience better health and lower mortality. The immune system will benefit from the right type of feed and we have conducted studies ourselves showing that fish getting our feed better cope with stress than fish given traditional feed.”

Transporting Planktonic’s feed requires a cryo-container to maintain the temperature. “It’s not like you can take it in a suitcase and carry it on a plane, but I think it’s quite efficient,” adds Husby.

Planktonic AS was formed initially in 2008 by Nils Egil Tokle, a PhD in marine biology, and Haavard Aakeroy, a mussel farmer and co-owner of Norway’s largest mussel producer. The company was formed initially to focus on inert feed, but in time developed the cryopreservation technique.

“They started experimenting with this in a small scale and had a little bit of a hunch as to what species that this could actually work with,” says Husby. “Due to both extreme creativity and in-depth knowledge about zooplankton biology, they could actually leap-frog a lot of stages that people otherwise would struggle with for years. When we discussed this with people from either academic circles or people from the cryopreservation business, they are struck with awe that this is actually possible with an organism in this context.”

Biggest challenge

The biggest challenge for the company currently is producing enough product to meet demand. They currently sell everything they produce. Expansion of their business will require proportional expansion of their operations.

“It’s about purchasing equipment,” says Husby. “It’s about making the equipment even better, and actually doing everything we do a little bit better. So, it’s all about industrializing the process and being able to produce even more tons than we do today. We have to make sure everything in all departments is working efficiently.”

Matt Jones

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