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A Fly is Turning Waste into a Sustainable Fish-Free Feed

F3 Challenge contestant is recycling food waste and feeding it to insects for fish food

People care about the ingredients that go into their food. We want pasture-raised eggs, organic grass-fed beef, and pesticide-free produce. We scan food labels for fake sugars, corn syrup and other additives. But beyond hoping for “best” or “good alternatives” when making our seafood choices, we don’t think much about the ingredients used to feed the farmed-fish we eat. That is

changing, and efforts like the F3 (Fish Free-Feed) Challenge are helping to bring high-quality and sustainable choices to our dinner plate.

We should care what we are feeding fish for a number of reasons. First is cost. The cost of fishmeal and fish oil derived from wild-caught fish, small oily forage fish like Peruvian anchovy or menhaden, rise and fall like gas prices based on their abundance at any given time.

Black Solider Fly. Credit: AgriProtein/www.agriprotein.com
Black Solider Fly. Credit: AgriProtein/www.agriprotein.com

Forage fish populations have had great natural fluctuations in the past from changing ocean conditions like El Niño, but at the current rate we are using them, and combined with other man-made drivers, such as climate change and pollution, their populations are being depleted. This means fish are getting more expensive.

The second is sustainability. Certified fishmeal is a good thing, but from whatever angle you view it, it is still made from wild-caught fish. We need to find a better way to feed all those trillions of fish needed for our growing global population in a way that doesn’t plunder the oceans.

To help combat these concerns, F3 Challenge contestant AgriProtein has emerged as a big player on the alternative fishfeed scene by innovating insect-based technology to recycle nutrients from food waste. As they see it, 40 percent of all the food that is produced gets thrown away.  This could be used to feed the estimated 10 quintillion insects alive at any time, which in turn could be used to feed fish.

Fishfeed free of wild-caught fish and made with other high-quality protein and oils can make aquaculture more sustainable, beyond just ensuring that the wild-caught fish being used to feed fish are from a stock that has been certified healthy today.

We can’t consistently forecast the abundance of a fish population in the future (for the reasons described above), plus humans are not the only ones relying on these wild fish for food. Seabirds, other bigger fish, and marine mammals need to eat too.

AgriProtein has developed a black soldier fly-based feed called MagMeal™. They are taking something that most consider waste and turning it into a product that can help solve our global challenge of feeding nine billion people. They opened a pilot plant in 2010, started farming black soldier flies in 2011, and quickly built an international network of partners and opened their first commercial scale factory in 2015. Just recently, they announced plans aimed at building 20 fly farms in the U.S. and Canada in pursuit of their global targets of 100 fly farms by 2024 and 200 by 2027.

For them, participating in the F3 Challenge is a necessity in promoting international collaboration and having a larger public platform for the issue—to stop destroying the oceans to feed animals. Five years ago, AgriProtein formed a partnership with Abagold, a cultivator of abalone and trout, and now their teammate in the F3 Challenge. Together these two companies have been exploring the potential of using MagMeal in the complete abalone growth diet. The hope of this partnership and others is to create a world first ZFIFO (Zero Fish in to Fish Out) fish farm in South Africa’s Western Cape region.

AgriProtein’s participation is also helping bring the issue of nutrient recycling to a larger audience by demonstrating that recycled nutrients are a valuable commodity.

“In the coming decades the black soldier fly will become as important as the honeybee in our agricultural system in helping us meet the growing food demand,” says AgriProtein cofounder and CEO Jason Drew. “By putting insects back into the role they have played for millions of years, we will help preserve marine environments while improving the health of the chickens and fish that we consume.”

Insects are part of the evolutionary diet of fish, and a number of fish species have been successfully raised on insect protein. Finding the right combination of fish-free nutrients that provide the same nutritional value to the fish and us humans for all types of seafood, and that don’t fluctuate in cost, is the innovation focus for the F3 team.

What could be more sustainable then harnessing flies and food waste to feed fish?

The F3 Challenge showcases the science and sustainability of alternative aquafeeds. By accelerating the progress being made we have the chance to help our ocean fish stocks recover so we can continue to feed our growing population.

This is Part II of a seven-part series about the contestants competing for the $200,000 F3 prize. Learn more about the F3 challenge and its participants. To see the prize leader and cast your vote on the winner, visit: https://goo.gl/Tp2qlg.

 

Written By: Sarah Martin and Annie Reisewitz