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Krill is a sustainable step in the ingredient evolution

Blog overview

The challenge facing the aquaculture feed industry is two-fold. On the one hand, the farmed fish industry is demanding more sustainable ingredients, and on the other hand, these ingredients must be packed with nutrition to ensure healthy growth in marine species. This has sparked the “ingredient evolution” in which the nutritional contribution and their environmental impact of the ingredients are both considered before being mixed into the feed.


Aquaculture industry seeks sustainable and nutritional feed ingredients

Typically farmed fish feeds have depended on ingredients from harvested fishingredients, such as fish meal and fish oil. These ingredients are a rich source of nutrition for the farmed species but dwindling supply and rising costs have prompted a more intense search for replacements. However, the solution to this is not as simple as replacing the marine ingredients with terrestrial ones, according to ThinkAqua researcher Alexandra Pounds in a new article from INSIGHT: https://www.worldfishing.net/insight-/what-makes-a-sustainable-feed/1475645.article?adredir=1


In this article, Pounds explains that terrestrial replacement ingredients aren’t necessarily sustainable due to the amount of land and water required to produce the quantity of nutrients needed. At the same time, the level of omega-3 in salmon, for example, has dropped due to the increased amount of terrestrial ingredients in the feed. This means that the human consumers of salmon must double their portion of this fish to get the same dose of omega-3 as they did from a single portion 20 years ago.


Antarctic krill stands out as superior source of omega-3 for farmed marine species

The search for sustainable, yet effective, ingredients for aquaculture feed is not without hope. Much research has been put into the viability of Antarctic krill, specifically Euphausia superba, as a nutrient-packed and sustainable source of nutrition for farmed marine animals. Krill stands out as the ingredient equivalent to a super food, given its protein and omega-3 rich nature.


Omega-3 is one of the most critical nutrients in aquaculture, as it stimulates greater survival, better growth and development and builds resistance to stress in the species. Study after study, on various species, prove this theory. Krill, as an alternative source of omega-3, has been put to the test for years by scientists aiming to uncover how it compares to fish-based and terrestrial ingredients in terms of its omega-3 effectiveness. In one recent study from April 2022, the scientists in India found that just 4.6% added krill in the whiteleg shrimp diet resulted in higher body weight and greater survival – a finding that’s in line with previous krill studies on other species.


Krill proven to be more effective source of omega-3 than its fish-based counterparts

What makes krill such a unique source of omega-3 is the fact that these omega-3s are bound to phospholipids, whereas the omega-3 in fishmeal is typically in the form of triglycerides. Both are lipids, but phospholipids are considered more essential to maintaining the cell membrane structure. This results in better absorption of the phospholipid-bound omega-3 in the cell structure, which leads to greater effectiveness in terms of health, growth, and survival.


While its nutritional qualities are undisputed, many still wonder: how sustainable is krill, really?

For Aker BioMarine, this question is core to our business. Sustainability key for our business, and we work to protect the precious ocean resource on which we all depend. We monitor the krill biomass closely, and over the last decade, we’ve witnessed it grow. It’s essential that the krill industry is strictly regulated, and as a company we always catch under the set quota limit. Technology plays a key role as well, as we continually advance and find ways to reduce bycatch, limit emissions, and ensure that we do not harm the food supply for other marine species.


Sustainability in this industry is not something that happens on its own. It must be at the heart of what we do, both on water and on land. Today, we see that the future of food is changing. The consciousness towards finding sustainable solutions to feed our planet is rising globally. This is a shift that requires an ingredient revolution in tandem, as the food our food eats must be sustainable as well.


Krill can be a game-changer in the ingredient evolution

Aquaculture will play a key role in our food future, so long as the industry players, like us, can continue to source high-quality and sustainable feed ingredients. We believe that krill stands out as a game-changer in the ingredient evolution, given its sustainable roots and nutrient-packed nature. But it’s also an ingredient that we can’t take for granted. We must continue to monitor, study, and collaborate with others to ensure that we continue to protect the very resource on which the future of aquaculture depends.