Fish-free feed competition makes strides
By Philip Nickerson
By Philip Nickerson
The quest for a fish-free feed for the aquaculture industry is making strides through the “F3 Fish-Free Challenge,” which as of November has attracted a range of multinational companies as contestants.
The F3 Fish-Free Challenge aims to help catalyze the development and sale of cost-competitive, viable aquafeeds free of fishmeal and fish oils.
At the Aquaculture 2016 conference in Las Vegas in February last year, USDA Research Nutritionist Dr Rick Barrows told Aquaculture North America (ANA) that there are fish-meal-free and/or fish-oil-free diets available but they are “challenging” as an alternative protein source because while they are effective, they are also expensive. “It can be done, but expensive right now. It is difficult to commercialize it,” Barrows said.
Under the F3 Challenge, the first company to produce and sell 100,000 metric tons (MT) of aquafeed that does not contain marine animal meal or oil will be awarded a prize in excess of $200,000 to support their fish-free aquafeed business. If none of the contestants have met the 100,000 MT target by September 15, 2017, the prize will go to the company closest to the target.
Teams are expected to report their first quarterly sales figures in January 2017. The F3 Challenge team is optimistic that the 100,000 MT target, which would represent a major milestone in validating the market viability of fish-free feeds, will be met.
Eight registered teams have submitted a specimen of feed that they want to qualify for the contest, which are currently being analyzed to ensure they are free of fishmeal and fish oils, said the organizers. Contestants range from companies with their own mills and farms with multinational sales and hundreds of employees to start-up farms and ingredient companies with just a dozen employees.
Companies submitted feeds for a range of seafood including shrimp, tilapia and trout.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium, New England Aquarium, University of Arizona and World Bank are sponsoring the F3 Challenge, with additional donations to support the administrative costs of running the prize.
The contest arose out of discussions first held at the 2015 World Aquaculture Society meeting in Busan, Korea, between University of Arizona Professor Kevin Fitzsimmons, the former president of the World Aquaculture Society and lead spokesperson for the F3 Challenge, and several environmental non-profit organizations.