Feed is the largest individual input factor for Lerøy Seafood Group, and we place a significant focus on optimal and cost-efficient feed utilisation. We work closely with our feed suppliers to influence the further development of feed composition to ensure that it is as highly adapted as possible to our fish-farming environment, our fish material and our various markets.
We have established ultra-modern R&D facilities where we carry out feed trials, maintaining full control of feeding and the volume of feed eaten per vessel.
Several trials were conducted in 2017 involving the use of new raw materials in feed and benchmarking of existing feed concepts.
Moreover, Lerøy has maintained a major focus on feeding regimes in 2017, accumulating and incorporating “best practice” throughout the organisation. Lerøy Seafood Group has an extra focus on the quality of the end product supplied to the end customer. Throughout the year, the Group has invested significant resources in the concept of sustainability and in certification schemes for individual raw materials.
Salmon from Lerøy shall have a high level of Omega-3 fatty acids, and we currently produce some of the most Omega-3-rich salmon on the market. This may present a challenge in terms of sustainable exploitation of the available resources rich in Omega-3, but we have an extensive programme aimed at making salmon a net producer of marine Omega-3 fatty acids, in the same way that salmon is currently a major net producer of marine protein.
We are constantly seeking new and sustainable raw materials for use in our fish feed. In 2016, we introduced several new raw materials to increase the sustainability of our feed. Camelina oil is an oil extracted from the Camelina plant, which is well known for its ability to grow in infertile soil and requires only low levels of water and fertiliser. The oil from this plant is particularly rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and has an extra-low content of Omega-6 fatty acids. We aim to minimise the amount of Omega-6 fatty acids in our salmon and the fish we eat, as our diet already contains more Omega-6 than recommended.
For several years, Lerøy Seafood Group’s level of Omega-3 fatty acids in its feed, and therefore also in its fish, has been higher than the market standard. These Omega-3 fatty acids have originated from fish oil, the most common commercially available source of Omega-3 in the world to date.
Microalgae also produce Omega-3 fatty acids, and microalgae meal is a good source of the essential Omega-3 fatty acids. A number of bodies have worked with microalgae to trigger production of Omega-3 fatty acids. The challenge has been to achieve sufficiently efficient cultivation in large cultures, so that microalgae can provide a genuine alternative to fish oil.
Lerøy Seafood Group has worked with fish feed containing various microalgae since the end of 2014. The fish have to enjoy the taste, the microalgae must be digestible, and the raw material must be reasonably priced.
Microalgae can be produced in two ways, depending on the source of energy they use.
1 ton of microalgae can replace 40 tons of wild fish.
OWN-PRODUCED MICROALGAE PRODUCED IN THE LIGHT
One main group of microalgae uses sunlight as a source of energy and, when this is combined with CO2, the algae grow and produce protein and marine fatty acids. Lerøy Seafood Group is part of CO2Bio, which has opened a national pilot centre for microalgae cultivation in Mongstad. The employees at the centre are working on developing commercial production of these microalgae. To date, neither CO2Bio nor others have succeeded in developing cost-efficient production of marine fatty acids using this method – but the work on identifying optimal production conditions has only just begun.
MICROALGAE PRODUCED IN THE DARK
The second main group of microalgae lives in the dark, in large tanks, and uses sugar as a source of energy. Development of this group is further along, and several parties are now producing commercially, although the prices vary significantly.
Together with the feed company BioMar, Lerøy Seafood Group has chosen a producer located in south Brazil. This is an American company primarily involved in cultivating sugar cane in Brazil. When evaluating the different suppliers, we apply several criteria:
• Primarily, the algae must not be a genetically modified (GM) organism, i.e. it cannot have been modified with genes enabling it to produce extra Omega-3.
• Secondly, production must have a minimal carbon footprint. The algae are cultivated in a “soup”. When production is complete, the residual products are dried to form a powder.
What energy source is used for the drying process? Many suppliers use gas or oil, leaving a significant footprint. “Our” Brazilian producer uses residual waste from sugar production (straws or sugar canes) as fuel to produce vapour used in the drying process. This ensures a minimal footprint.
In summary, the Omega-3 source from algae used by Lerøy is produced using one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly methods available.
Today, we add so much microalgae to our feed that we are able to close the gap between 6% (the standard) and 7.5% (the Lerøy standard). We are therefore free from the criticism that we “waste” valuable fish oil. And the best part is that the fish love the feed!
The introduction of new raw materials for fish feed is one of the most important focus areas in Ocean Forest, where we aim to make use of nutrient salts to produce new raw materials for fish feed. Meal from mussels is one example of this.
One of the objectives of the Ocean Forest project is to investigate the possibilities for alternative raw materials for fish feed. So far, the project has investigated seaweed, blue mussels and seafood sausages. The experiments to date suggest that blue mussels can be an exciting raw material in the future. Research on fish containing mussel meal shows that this is a good raw material. The fish liked the feed and grew as well as the control fish. Through Ocean Forest, we will continue our studies with the mapping of alternative raw material sources.