According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over 18 million tons of wild-caught fish is used each year to make fishmeal and fish oil. These small schooling fish, known as forage fish, include sardines, herring, anchovies and menhaden. By 2030, it is predicted that 25% less wild-caught seafood will be available compared to today. A similar shrinkage will also occur in aquaculture unless it can overcome key constraints, such as a shortage of fishmeal for feeds.
To mitigate this issue, the F3 Fish-Free Feed Challenge was launched in November 2015 to encourage sustainable innovations such as the use of alternative ingredients for aquaculture fish feeds, and to reduce pressure on wild-caught fish to supply fish feed components. The contest was intended to help catalyze the development and sale of cost-competitive, viable aqua feeds free of fishmeal and fish oils.
For over a year, eight companies from all around the world (Table 1) competed to prove the commercial viability of fishmeal-free aqua feed by selling as much of it as they could. Contestants ranged from integrated multinational with hundreds of employees, to start-up farms and ingredient companies with just a dozen employees.
Table 1. List of contestants and locations with the diets they worked on.
|AgriProtein (Gibraltar), Abagold (South Africa)||Rainbow Trout|
|Guangdong Evergreen Feed Industry Co. (China)||Tilapia, Carp, Dace|
|Htoo Thit Co. (Myanmar), BIOMIN (Austria)||Tilapia/Carp|
|JAPFA Feeds (Singapore/Indonesia)||Tilapia|
|Oryza Organics (Pakistan)||Tilapia (x2)|
|Ridley (Australia), Sureerath Prawns (Thailand)||Shrimp|
|TwoXSea (U.S. California), Star Milling Co. (U.S. California), Alltech (U.S. Kentucky), TerraVia (U.S. California)||Trout|
The rule of F3 was simple: by September 2017, the first company to produce and sell 100,000 metric tons (MT) of aqua feeds that did not contain any marine animal meal or oil would be awarded a US$200,000 prize to support their fish-free aquafeed business.
In Myanmar particularly, the aquaculture diets targeted for the F3 contest were Rohu (Labeo rohita) and Tilapia (Oreochromis sp.) grower feeds. These two common species are often grown together in the same ponds along with other species like Pacu and Catfish. The polyculture systems in Myanmar can be time extensive with low yields (e.g. 1 - 3.5 tons/ha). They can also be combined with poultry or swine production units installed above the ponds where feces are used to boost the natural phytoplankton productivity of the water ecosystem. Hence, some systems can be semi-intensive with production yields up to 15 t/ha with fish grown in smaller ponds.
Currently, Htoo Thit Co (HTC) is using various plant protein sources such as imported soybean meal, whole wheat meal, groundnut cake and other local protein sources in their fish feeds. As the main aqua species in Myanmar are herbivorous, they can still perform on 100% plant diets making it possible to reduce the fishmeal content to zero as long as the necessary digestible amino acid profile and available energy level are included in the formulation.
Since 2014, BIOMIN and HTC have worked closely together to improve local feed formulations and test alternative plant-based raw materials. Two remaining bottlenecks are the lack of differentiated feed formulations by species and by stages, and also the high levels of mycotoxins in raw materials.
Professor Kevin Fitzsimmons from the University of Arizona, former president of the World Aquaculture Society and lead spokesperson for the F3 Challenge said:
“The contest has accelerated information sharing and partnerships between companies in all parts of the feed supply chain. The great thing about the contest has been the incredible level of publicity generated for innovative companies producing new ingredients, and to alert all aquafeed companies of the potential available. A second really encouraging sign was the significant shift amongst environmental NGOs when they realized that aquaculture could in fact become a much more sustainable industry. Many environmental groups have now put their efforts to actively supporting more innovative aquaculture, rather than just opposing anything related to aquaculture.”
BIOMIN is now monitoring mycotoxin contamination levels in Myanmar by analyzing several batches of raw material and finished feeds. For example, levels of deoxynivalenol (DON), fumonisin (FUM) and aflatoxin (AFLA) were all found to be far above the recommended limits. This trend is amplified with the use of 100% plantbased diets with DDGS. It is crucial for feed mills like HTC to reduce the impact of mycotoxins by introducing a mycotoxin mitigation plan in their feed manufacturing process; an area where huge improvements can be made in Myanmar.
Continuing the development of fishmeal-free fish diets, BIOMIN and HTC decided to enter the F3 competition as a team with the objective of completely eliminating the use of local fishmeal in Rohu and Tilapia diets. The F3 contest was an opportunity to accelerate the transition toward more sustainable feed. It started in May 2016 with freshwater fish species but in the future, the F3 feed concept could also be applied to other species such as Shrimp (Vannamei) and tropical Seabass (Lates calcarifer).
Figure 1. Fishmeal free feed sales by contestant team over the course of the competition.
In September 2017, the BIOMIN / HTC team finished in second place with almost 34,000T of F3 aqua feeds sold in Myanmar (Figure 1). First prize went to Guangdong Evergreen Feed Industry Co. from China who sold more than 84,000T of F3 feed. Their prize was presented during a special ceremony on 4th October 2017 at the Global Aquaculture Alliance GOAL’s conference in Dublin, Ireland.
- In the future, there will be supply constraints on the wildcaught forage fish used to make fishmeal and fish oils
- The F3 Fish-Free Feed Challenge launched in November 2015 to catalyze the development and sale of fish-free aquafeeds
- Nearly 120,000 metric tons of fish-free aquafeed were produced and sold during the course of the competition