Soy Visionary Enters The Aquaculture Market With New Protein Feed

Ecuador – November 07, 2017

A US feed ingredient startup, Midwest Ag Enterprises, (MWA), has recently launched a new advanced soy protein feed ingredient, which it claims can replace up to 100% of fishmeal during some stages of marine fish and shrimp growout in aquaculture.

The firm has partnered with Mexico's XPAND-AG, a feed ingredient distribution startup, to sell these products throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Founder and general director Francisco de la Torre, is a Mexican-American with ten years of experience as a regional director for the US Soy Export Council, a position that he left last year to launch XPAND-AG.

Interviewed in Guayaquil in September, de la Torre told Undercurrent News that while working with soy exports, he devoted a lot of time to the development of products to replace fishmeal. That drive, shared by many in the sector, is seen as key for all feed producers and fish farmers trying to make the aquaculture industry more sustainable.

Soy feed

Soy production and world demand has grown dramatically since 1991 -- by 160%, more than any other crop -- de la Torre explained. Corn production increased by 90% and wheat by 26% during the same period.

Asian farmers have been using an increasing amount of soy in aquafeeds, while a lot of third-party certification programs require a decrease in the use of fishmeal to increase sustainability ratings.

Soy is rich in amino acids -- with the exception of methionine -- so by supplementing soy feed with methionine, farmed fish can receive similar amino acid profiles to animal protein and taurine, de la Torre said.

Soy has become a very important source of protein and energy in animal production and human consumption. In this context, plant protein has been used a lot in animal production, particularly for the poultry and swine sectors. Now it's becoming more relevant in aquaculture, according to de la Torre.

"It's significant; it's tremendous," he said.

So everybody is looking for alternative sources of protein for aquaculture production, he added.

"We have done it throughout the years: the US Soy Export Council has done a lot of work in research in developing new protein products from a basis of soymeal, removing carbohydrates and concentrating on protein to develop products that could replace fishmeal and other animal proteins for marine fish or shrimp," de la Torre said.

But "many people in the industry", particularly feed producers, always thought that it was not possible to fully replace fishmeal.

"We have proven that theory wrong, developing this product," he said.

De la Torre said that the company's research efforts were rewarded.

"So from all these years promoting the use of soy proteins in aquaculture, we have developed some products that we are now offering on the market. Some of them are soy protein concentrates and a combination of soy and corn proteins that can replace most, if not all, of the fishmeal in the diets for aquaculture species," de la Torre said.

"NutriVance is an advanced soy protein product with 65% of soy protein (on as fed basis), which is about the same amount that fishmeal has," he said of his firm's new product for the aquaculture industry.

MWA and XPAND-AG, which launched its new ingredient for aquaculture about six months ago, are currently talking to different feed suppliers, like Biomar or Alimentsa, to utilize its products in Latin America.

People are still thinking that you can replace up to a limited amount of fishmeal to maintain the same growth efficiency, but research shows that you can replace almost all the fishmeal, at least in certain stages of growth, mainly in the last stages of growout, de la Torre pointed out.

"You will have to leave some fishmeal in the diet, and, fish oil, particularly, for six to eight weeks in the nutrition of some species, in the case of salmon, for example. But we have developed some diets, like for cobia or red snapper or other marine fish species of commercial importance, with no fishmeal or perhaps only 2-3% as an attractant and it is mainly a matter of convincing the producer [to try it] because they like to have some fishmeal in the feed," he said.

oThere is still some work to be done, to better understand the nutritional requirements of some of those marine fish species, de la Torre noted.

                                                                                 Fig 1. Soybeans

 

Price competitiveness

While there is a combination of plant resources that can be used to replace almost 100% of fishmeal in marine fish diets, prices have to be competitive, de la Torre said.

"Aquaculture producers are struggling to find a reliable product.There are many different types of fishmeal and a lot of people tend to buy the cheap one and it's not always the best option. Fishmeals also have the disadvantage of prices fluctuation throughout a year. One of the advantages of soy proteins is that you have very stable price and quality, at a price of $900 to $1,400 per metric ton depending on the product. So price varies, but on average is very competitive, at around $1,200/t," de la Torre said, pointing out that it was more cost effective than fishmeal, as well as a more sustainable protein source.

Other soy products, alternative feed products

The amount of soy-based feed used in the Americas is increasing.

The salmon industry in Chile and Norway uses quite a bit of soymeal and soy protein concentrates. In Chile, salmon farmers are already using an estimated 200,000t of soy protein concentrates in aquafeeds. In Norway, the salmon industry has replaced up to two-thirds of the fishmeal in formulations with plant-based proteins, mostly soy proteins, de la Torre noted.

He added that soy based feeds are being widely used and increasing also in shrimp farming.

Demand for soy protein concentrate, or equivalent advanced soy proteins, is projected to reach 3 million metric tons by 2020, twice the level of 2015, according to de la Torre.

The soyfeed market remains competitive.

"We are manufacturing our products in the US and there is a company in China and two in Brazil that produce soy protein concentrate and another company in the U.S. and Europe is marketing fermented soy protein product, a lower protein product but also very significant out in the industry," said de la Torre.

"There are also some corn protein concentrates available; Cargill is offering one and it has about 75% of protein," he added, noting that soy and corn concentrates complemented each other in terms of amino-acid content.

With the exception of taurine, which is needed for marine fish, all essential amino acids are covered with soy and corn proteins combined, he said.

Meanwhile, other products, such as animal byproducts like poultry meal or feather meal, as well as newly developed protein sources such as insect proteins, etc., are also increasingly used in aquaculture used as aquafeed.

 

By Matilde Mereghetti – Undercurrent News

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