Research program creates NovacqTM for prawns
A LANDMARK discovery by CSIRO could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, slow down over-fishing of the world's oceans and help boost Australia's seafood exports. With 10 years of research, the results of NovacqTM is very promising.
A marathon research program in Brisbane and on Bribie Island, led by Dr. Nigel Preston, has created NovacqTM or novel aqua feed, an ingredient for farmed prawns that helps them grow faster, taste better and make more money for producers.
CSIRO created a method of farming and harvesting underwater microbes which could then be added to pellets and fed to prawns.
"Because (NovacqTM) is a totally natural food source, prawns are not going to be anything other than good tasting because it's what they eat naturally," Dr. Preston said.
It has also been tested for four months at Australian Prawn Farms in Ilbilbie, south of Mackay, with black tiger prawns growing faster than those not fed with NovacqTM.
Not only does the feed replicate what wild prawns eat in the wild, it replaces the millions of tons of wild marine life caught each year specifically to feed farm-grown seafood.
NovacqTM makes up about 10% of the pellets fed to the prawns.
Already, the Australian owned Ridley AgriProducts have a license from the CSIRO to begin producing and selling the prawn feed both in Australia and in south-east Asia. In Vietnam, Viet-Uc Seafood Corporation holds the license for producing and selling.
Australia: The sustainable prawn feed additive
CSIRO, (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), Australia's national science agency, have produced the perfect feed additive for prawns, which increases growth rate by about 30%, creates healthier prawns and is produced with no fish products in their diet, a world-first achievement in sustainability
The NovacqTM prawn feed additive is a “game changer” according to CSIRO’s Dr Nigel Preston, who has been working with the A$75 million (€52.5 million) Australian prawn farming industry for over 25 years.
"This is a major achievement for the sustainability of Australia's aquaculture industry as prawns fed this diet are not only a top quality product and reach market size faster, they also no longer need to be fed with any products from wild fishery resources." Dr Preston said.
Until now, Australian prawn farmers have needed to feed their prawns with a pellet that includes some sustainably sourced fish meal or fish oil, in order to ensure that the prawns grew fast, and were a healthy and high quality product for consumers.
NovacqTM is an entirely natural food source based on the smallest organisms in the marine environment, the marine microbes which are the foundation of the marine food pyramid. It is based on over 10 years of CSIRO research to understand the natural marine microbial processes that occur in prawn farm ponds and natural marine estuaries, and the role of microbes in prawn nutrition.
Its production relies on the controlled production of these marine microbes. CSIRO researchers have discovered how to feed and harvest them, and convert them into a product that can then be added to feeds as a bioactive ingredient, like a dietary supplement for prawns.
Including NovacqTM in the diet of farmed prawns has shown for the first time that fish meal and fish oil can be completely replaced in the prawn diet, potentially freeing the prawn aquaculture industry from reliance on wild fishery resources.
Finding a substitute for wild fish products
There has been a lot of work aiming to replace the fishmeal in fish and prawn feeds, for example, using a range of alternatives mainly from terrestrial protein sources. Legumes and grains have been shown to be good substitutes for fishmeal, except that they lack some key micronutrients found in fishmeal.
Furthermore, it can be argued that although using terrestrial crops to feed fish may be more sustainable than using fishmeal, it would be better to use crop byproducts and the crop wastes instead, as these are a cheap and abundant source of carbon and do not use material that would otherwise be suitable for human consumption.
Prawns are one type of seafood that is disadvantaged by the lack of bioactive nutrients in plants used in aquafeed. Prawns in the oceans are a primary consumer of marine bacteria and plankton, which are dominant elements in the marine environment. The mass of bacteria and plankton in the oceans exceeds the total mass of all ocean-dwelling plants and animals – and marine bacterial processes are also dominant and vital parts of marine nutrient cycles.
Combining these ingredients, the CSIRO team has devised a way of using natural microbial processes to convert the waste carbon from crops into a novel bioactive aquafeed ingredient, which we have called NovacqTM. The CSIRO process uses commonly used equipment and facilities. Waste carbon is taken from a source of solid or liquid waste, and add some specific micronutrients along with a source of nitrogen which can come from fertilizer.
Converting these ingredients requires low-cost systems that are adaptable all around the world where prawn farming occurs. The CSIRO team started with small-scale tanks and moved into larger-scale ponds to produce greater quantities of NovacqTM.
We find NovacqTM has outstanding effects on the culture performance of prawns. With NovacqTM we have been able to improve prawn growth and health – and even to grow prawns without any fishmeal in their diet (Glencross et al. 2014).
The CSIRO team has also demonstrated that the growth benefits of NovacqTM remain in selectively bred prawns (Glencross et al. 2013). There have been several other experiments by CSIRO and more recently by Ridley Corporation, our Australian NovacqTM licensee that is actively involved in R&D, confirming outstanding improvements in growth rates in the order of 20–50% depending on the particular NovacqTM batch and feed formulation used.
The NovacqTM technology is adaptable everywhere prawn farming occurs, including in developing countries. CSIRO’s aim is to facilitate the distribution of NovacqTM throughout the world, via our current licensing partners: one in each of Australia, China and Vietnam which can produce and sell NovacqTM exclusively in their respective territories. Ridley has multiple production and distribution territories including Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The global adoption of NovacqTM has the capacity to revolutionize feeds for cultured prawns, and potentially other commercially relevant crustaceans, while reducing the pressure on wild fish stocks.
Source: Simon – Case study: From plant wastes to sustainable aquafeeds: NovacqTM