A sustainable protein supplement for the future by Peter Parker, International Aquafeed Magazine
uckweed is the smallest flowering plant in the world. It is an aquatic plant often found in fresh water or wetlands in most parts of the world that do not freeze too frequently. Floating on or just below the surface of still or slow-moving bodies of water, many around the world perceive it as a pest, claiming it “clogs up lakes or ponds”. However, duckweed is anything but a pest. It is in fact somewhat more of a super plant. Some people suggest that it has properties that are under-exploited, for example as a bio-fuel and as an effective bioremediator of wastewater. It is a potent fertiliser; and most importantly for the purposes of this article, it is a rich and sustainable source of protein with the potential for widespread use in animal feed, aqua feed, and as a food source for humans.Question and Answer with Tamra Fakhoorian, International Lemna Assocation Duckweed expert, Ms Fakhoorian is a biologist, chemist, and co-founder of the International Lemna Association, of which she is the current executive director. Three years ago Ms Fakhoorian founded GreenSun Products, LLC; a company that has developed duckweed production systems, and product lines for both pet and human nutrition.
Q. From my current understanding, it seems as though duckweed would have great potential as an aqua or terrestrial animal feed? A. Yes, while initial commercial marketing focus is on higher value products, duckweed has been used to feed fish and land animals for decades in integrated Asian farmer settings. Researchers have been working with duckweed for nearly fifty years. We know its potential to remediate wastewater and return a large volume of high protein biomass and exceptionally clean water. This pathway is seen as completing the nutrient cycle, a real boon to sustainable production of plant protein for a wide variety of uses including aqua and terrestrial animal feeds. I love this quote by Peter Marshall: “Waste itself is a human concept. Everything in nature is eventually used.” Duckweed can help farmers mimic nature in this regard, and reap feed cost savings whilst reusing fresh water over and over. Q. What is the current state of the duckweed industry? A. Current applications include: 1. Using the decades-old model of Asian small farm settings to recapture animal waste nutrient streams and use the resulting duckweed biomass as a fresh feed for ducks, fish, and swine for feed cost savings. Companies are developing integrated systems including CAFO waste streams for bio methane generation and subsequent duckweed production to be used as fresh feed supplements for cattle, swine, and chickens. (Each species has maximum feed inclusion rates due to each animal’s ability to process the high
22 | INTERNATIONAL AQUAFEED | September-October 2015