Plant-Based Proteins to Increase Aquaculture Sustainability

By 2050, analysts estimate the worldwide population will swell to an overwhelming 9.5 billion people. With global food demands ever increasing, scientists are continually looking to long-term sustainable food growing methods, particularly aquaculture. Research by the University of Idaho is now helping aquaculture become even more environmentally beneficial, by developing largely plant-based fish feed.

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Just like people, our seafood requires protein to grow. Right now, the vast majority of aquaculture feeds source their protein from fish meal, a nutrient-rich supplement made from “trash fish.” Trash fish often comprise of species undesirable to sport or commercial fishermen, as well as by-catch products from commercial fisheries. Because these fish serve as a natural food source for many of the marine species in our ocean ecosystems, harvesting them in large quantities has a devastating environmental impact.

The problems associated with overfishing are compounded with a globally growing middle class increasing demand for protein-packed meat, like seafood. In 2011, the world consumed over 137.5 million tons of fish, 68 million tons of which was grown by the aquaculture industry. Within 10 years, aquaculture production is expected to increase by around 50%, and will require 33 million tons of protein products, thereby further taxing already overused natural fish resources.

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By supplementing fish meal with plant-based proteins, researchers at the University of Idaho hope to reduce our worldwide reliance on fish as feed meal protein sources. Plant protein alternatives, like soy, have the potential to reduce our use of fishmeal in feed from 45% to 22%.

Additionally, fish and seafood have better food conversion rates than traditional livestock. Just 1 – 1.5 lbs of food is converted to 1 lb of gain by fish, offering a much more efficient use of protein. As a further benefit, seafood is often much more consumable than other meat sources. While only up to 40% of an animal like steer is edible, we consume between 50 – 60% of seafood.

As part of our efforts to provide consumers with a truly sustainable product, Florida Organic Aquaculture has one of the highest food conversion ratios in the industry. Each pound of our shrimp requires just 1.2 pounds of feed, and we are constantly working to improve that ratio. In place of large quantities of feed utilized by other aquaculture farms, our system incorporates Biofloc, a healthy bacteria (like yogurt) that acts as a food supplement for our shrimp.

Sustainability of our global food sources will continue to increase as research into plant-based protein alternatives develops. By supporting aquaculture efforts, you can help ensure the future of healthy, responsibly grown food that will help feed our world’s population.

Sources:

Snyder, Cindy. “Is Aquaculture Sustainable?” MagicValley.com, Twin-Falls Times News. September 21, 2014. Web. September 2014.