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The Millennial Salmon Project paves the way for a more sustainable salmon

The project aims at creating a knowledge-based sustainable product that answers to modern Millennial principles of life, considering techno-economic, animal welfare, environmental and societal aspects as a whole.

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April 11, 2024

The UN FAO predicts the world will reach 9 billion people by 2050 and aquaculture is expected to play a critical role in assuring global food security. In this context, there is a need to accelerate the global momentum around sourcing, scaling and developing sustainable, alternative solutions for aquaculture and address changing consumer behavior.

In this context, the Millennial Salmon Project intends to develop the world’s most sustainable farmed salmon using novel ingredients with a low carbon footprint and a focus on circular economy. The four-year project (2021-2024), now extended until 2025, is based on the millennial principles of life: living healthy; having a purposeful life; trusting peers; and considering societal and environmental impacts.

The project aims to implement responsible innovation actions through a strategic collaboration between leading research institutes and commercial stakeholders along the value chain, including Nofima, Sintef Ocean, Cargill, MOWI, Corbion, Innovafeed, Labeyrie fine foods and Auchan.

The project concept is based on utilizing efficient technologies, such as industrial fermentation and circular economy transformation of industrial agriculture side stream biomasses, into microalgae (Corbion) and insects (Innovafeed), respectively, for sustainable production of low trophic species for ingredients for aquafeed. The combination of Corbion DHA-rich Schizochytrium sp. liquid suspension and Innovafeed Black Soldier Fly insect meal will enable satisfying large parts of the nutritional requirements of salmon in high-quality proteins and long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, allowing for sustainable future growth in salmon industry reducing dependency on primary natural resources.

First results

The project is working on maximizing dietary inclusion of microalgae-based omega-3 and insect meal substituting a part of fishmeal, soy protein concentrate and fish oil without negative effects on salmon health, welfare and performance or in the physical feed properties, and balancing the environmental impact.

Invited by the North Atlantic Seafood Forum (NASF), in the 2024 edition, the companies got together to talk about the project challenges, first learnings and the supply chain collaboration during the roundtables Millennial Salmon Talks.


Millennial Salmon Talks at NASF

One of the project objectives is to define the inclusion levels of microalgae-based omega-3s and insect meal for an optimized physical and nutritional quality of salmon feeds. The first round of research sought to determine optimal inclusion levels of AlgaPrime™ DHA LS — Corbion’s algae-based omega-3 DHA-rich ingredient in liquid suspension — in feed for Atlantic salmon. AlgaPrime™ DHA can be incorporated at two different points in the feed production process: into the mix prior to extrusion and during pellet coating. “The study showed that AlgaPrime™ DHA can be added at varying levels without negatively impacting feed quality, and promotes a more stable process and pellet quality,” said Tim Rutten, vice president, Nutrition & Pharma, at Corbion.

In terms of insect meal, the project aims to identify what functional properties has insect meal and how can these be used in salmon feeds. The team tested, for the first time, stickwater, one of the three fractions in which insect larvae are processed, together with oil and meal. Stickwater is thought to be rich in bioactive components, the same way as fishmeal.

A feed trial adding 10% insect meal and different levels of stickwater from insects was performed in salmon and found that salmon grew just as well and had just as good digestion when their diet contained stickwater from insects,” said Elin Kvamme, global aqua director at Innovafeed.

Following the results of the first round of research, the Millennial Salmon Project will investigate: how can EPA requirements be covered in practical microalgae feeds for salmon, what the functional properties of insect meal are and how these can be used in salmon feeds, how large of an inclusion of innovative ingredients can we have to maintain the Millennial salmon goal of a sustainable product for the consumer, and how sustainable is Millennial salmon and what the key elements for successful commercialization are.

Incorporating both ingredients in aquafeeds will be key in reducing the use of marine ingredients, increasing circularity and aiming for a low carbon footprint of aquafeeds. Life Cycle Assessment for both Corbion’s algae oil and Innovafeed’s insect meal unveiled lower impacts on climate change and CO2 emissions than fishmeal, fish oil and vegetable oils. “Both ingredients are expected to be key in reducing carbon footprint and especially Scope 3 emissions,” said Aikaterina Kousoulaki, researcher at Nofima.

Consumers’ acceptance of the sustainability narrative

One of the questions that arise in producing sustainable salmon is whether it would meet consumers’ demand. “Salmon is seen by consumers as a healthy product and adding sustainability to the narrative should not be an issue. It actually may help in changing some consumers’ perspectives,” said Catarina Martins, chief sustainability and technology officer at Mowi.

Manon Durvec, sustainability manager at Labeyrie Fine-foods, presented an example to support this. She explained that in France, there has been a decreasing trend in salmon consumption emphasized by a loss of trust due to sustainability issues including aquafeeds. “In a recent workshop, involving the whole French value chain, consumers’ perceptions changed after getting more information about the feed composition and raw materials,” Durvec said.

“Improving the salmon feed composition and footprint will improve the industry’s sustainability. At the same time, communicating research and progress toward a more sustainable and beneficial salmon diet would shift from negative to positive claims,” Durvec said.

The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway.