By 2055, the global human population will likely have exceeded 10 billion people, all of whom need to eat. OddGeir Oddsen, CEO of aquaculture feed supplier ProChaete, hopes to solve some of our future food supply problems in the company’s new lab in Wales.
The human population is growing fast. We are currently more than 7 billion people populating this earth, which amounts to roughly 6.3 percent of all the people who have ever lived. And every one of us needs to consume protein in order to survive.
Today, an estimated 2 billion people suffer from malnutrition due to lack of micronutrients. And in emerging economies, the demand for animal protein is growing explosively, partly due to rising incomes and urbanisation.
High quality proteins will be hard to come by in the years to come, at least in high enough quantities. But we need to get them from somewhere.
Trying to feed the world using land-based animal proteins will have dire consequences. In addition to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and waste, industrial animal farming on a large scale leads to soil degradation on an unsustainable scale. So a large part of our food supply needs to come from aquaculture.
More than 90% of our global fish stocks were overexploited back in 2011. This kind of overfishing takes an enormous toll on marine ecosystems, and so the world is relying more and more on farmed seafood.
The protein we feed to marine animals needs to come from somewhere. And the overall global fishmeal production can not exceed six million tonnes per year before it will take too large of a toll on fish populations. So how are we going meet aquaculture protein demands effectively?
We need to start thinking about consuming and producing proteins sustainably. The development of sustainable animal feed, both on land and under water, represents a giant leap in the right direction. One of the key elements in this area is the conversion of different waste materials into proteins. A very efficient way of doing this, is by using worms, more specifically polychaetes. Polychaetes contain nutritious, versatile proteins that can form a solid foundation for high quality aquaculture feed. Polychaetes convert a wide range of nutrients into protein, which again allows ProChaete to convert nutrient sources that would normally be considered waste, into valuable protein sources. But we are not satisfied with turning polychaetes into a high quality aquaculture feed. We are determined to use polychaetes to create the best and most effective aquaculture feed in the world.
Science in progress
This is why we have built our new aquaculture lab facilities in Wales. Currently, we have two wet labs based on recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS). Our two units can run freshwater and saltwater in high or low temperatures. It is also possible to run freshwater in one lab and at the same time run saltwater in the other. Currently, we are testing shrimp in one wet lab and tilapia in the other, but the possibilities here are myriad. Our labs will, among other things, be used to test Feed Conversion Ratios and Specific Growth Rates in many different aquacultures concepts. First and foremost, this is where we will invent the aquaculture feed of tomorrow. Our tanks are relatively small, between 60 and 200 litres, allowing us to collect data effectively from many small populations simultaneously.
The future of aquaculture
Our goal is first and foremost to create an exceptionally effective aquaculture feed protein, but in order to do that, we need to cultivate the best possible polychaetes. By constantly testing and developing our different types of feed, we will be able to lower the Feed Conversion Ratios and increase the specific Growth Rates substantially, so that the industry can produce better food more easily. With a rapidly growing human population, we need to make the best of the resources we have. And that’s exactly where ProChaete wishes to contribute.
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