CFeed is a biotech feed company supplying the aquaculture market with a unique feed solution for marine fish fry.
Looking at the expected growth in human population, which is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has predicted that food production will need to increase by at least 70% in order to meet rising demand. This, combined with less available land area for agriculture, has shifted the focus towards ways to produce more food in the oceans. During the early 2000s, researchers at SINTEF Ocean began looking at the possibilities to expand the aquaculture sector globally. Even 20 years ago there was an expanding focus in how to feed the growing population, while maintaining a lower environmental footprint. The researchers looked at the existing production and cultivation of fish species globally and tried to solve the main obstacles affecting any further growth.
The results from this work clearly indicated that the possibilities in growth for existing species like shrimps, seabass and seabream were large. In addition, newer species including tuna, seriola and groupers demonstrate great potential as volume species. However, the main obstacle was within the early growth at the hatcheries. More or less all existing production of marine species had problems with mortality, low growth and poor quality of fish larvae in their early stages of life, which directly led to unprofitable farming of the different species.
Based on this, scientists looked among many different areas, especially on the conditional (production environment) and the nutritional aspects of marine fish production. The main reason that it was so difficult to achieve fast growing and good quality fish fry in large enough numbers for continuously farming was because of the insufficient nutritional value in existing feed solutions.
The main existing feed solutions in the hatcheries used are Rotifers and Artemia, which are not typically present in the wild; and which therefore need to be enriched with additional nutrients such as fat, protein and vitamins. It seems difficult to enrich the solutions with the right nutrition; at the same time, the enrichment often floats out into the production tanks, which can be affected by bacterial growth as a result.
‘Copepods’ – the much needed solution
The next step was to look for the perfect start feed; and researchers set out to determine the natural solution. What was the fish fry eating in the nature, and how could this be produced in large amounts in controlled conditions? The researchers knew this involved very small plankton. Marine fish fry are so small that they cannot eat formulated feed in their first day of life. Researchers found that very small plankton, which are naturally boosted with high nutritional value, are present in all oceans and can be produced in high densities, would be the key solution. After more than 15 years of research and development, they came out with the solution of producing ‘Copepods’, which is CFeed’s main product today.
The Copepod species we have developed produces what we call ‘resting eggs’, which means that the eggs can get into a passive development phase; waiting to hatch until the growth conditions are right. This was a significant point in choosing the right species. CFeed produces Copepod eggs which can be stimulated to prevent them from hatching before the right conditions are in place. We can store the eggs in the correct conditions; and the eggs can then be hatched on demand at the customer’s hatchery.
The main goal for CFeed after establishing the company was to establish a sufficient production of Copepod eggs. We established a pilot plant in a location outside Trondheim, Norway. At the same we needed to work extensively on documenting the effects of using our feed product. The variety of different marine aquaculture species is broad, such as from shrimps to bluefin tuna. The main work was to establish good feeding protocols for different species.
A bright future for fish feed
Since CFeed’s initial success, we have performed over 30 trials in 16 different species worldwide to confirm the product’s strengths. We have seen significant improvements in results after implementing our solution in every fish species tested. We have been working closely with species as seabream, tuna, turbot, amberjacks, ballan wrasse, cod; and many other species. For all species tested we have seen significant improvement in mortality rates, growth rates and quality issues of the fry.
As an example, it is normal to improve survival rates by 30 to 50% using our product; which really is a game changer within this field. We also detected that our product could enable the growth of species which had previously been considered impossible to cultivate, including bluefin tuna and seriola, both of which are expected to grow substantially in production volume in the next few years in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Seriola species like greater amberjack are expected to be the new volume species in Europe within some years; and are already produced in certain volumes in Japan. However, more or less all production of these species comes from wild catch of juveniles for further growth on land and later in cages. This is neither environmentally nor economically sustainable. Wild catch of tuna juveniles, meanwhile, is already restricted and banned in many areas around the world.
Looking at the future for CFeed, it seems rather bright. CFeed is the only producer in the world today with a live product which does not require additional enrichment and which can be fed from day one of the fish fry’s life. We already have commercial volumes of the product and are about to scale up.
We are now evaluating which markets to enter first; considering the potential of areas with high aquaculture production such as East and Central Asia, Mediterranean Europe, Latin America and Brazil. CFeed is growing rapidly and we already have increasing recurring sale to some key customers. One of the rapidly growing market is the salmon cleaner fish market, which stems from the sealice parasite troubling the salmon industry in North Europe the last decade. To be able to reduce the parasite the salmon industry is adding cleaner fish in the salmon cages which eat the sealice from the salmon. Farming of salmon cleaner fish like ballan wrasse is therefore rapidly growing.
In the next couple of years we expect the market to grow fast. We estimate a market of several billion euros for a product like this; and to be able to respond to the market we are planning the next step of production innovation and capacity growth to meet the demand. We really believe that CFeed, with our expertise and products, can help the worldwide production of food from aquaculture to grow much faster than what was earlier expected. We are prepared to help feeding the blue future.