other meat by-products. Yes, the protein-replacement opportunity is attractive, as is the amino acid profile, but it’s the research currently ongoing around functional benefits which could enable flymeal products to command a premium over fishmeal.
A solution to food waste
An FAO study estimates that one third of all food produced is wasted– a staggering 1.3bn MT every year. This occurs right along the supply chain, from spoilage getting to market, in processing, shelf-life expiry and from food left on plates. Not only is this expensive – costing around US$100bn annually, but it can be hugely damaging to the environment if not dealt with responsibly – with nutrient runoff from landfills frequently blamed for eutrophication of water sources, and subsequent damage to aquaculture businesses. Black Soldier Fly larvae have been touted as a possible solution – recycling nutrients from food-grade, ex-factory sources into high quality ingredients for aquafeed. Physiologically, BSFL grow faster than either mealworms or crickets, reaching pre-pupal stage (harvesting stage) 12 days after hatching, so the physical footprint and infrastructure required for commercial production of BSFL is much smaller than for crickets or mealworm. As a survival strategy, BSF consume their entire lifetime supply of energy and nutrients in the larval stage, eating continuously, so at the time of harvesting (before they pupate into flies) they are chock-full of proteins and oils. This quirk of evolution means they can be farmed very efficiently, allowing commercial producers to deliver a costeffective protein product. The nutrient profile of the larvae also reflects the profile of the feedstock, meaning that by carefully controlling the feed in different production lines, BSFL producers can produce highly targeted species-specific products.
Nutrition Technologies, a South East Asian BSFL producer and recent finalist in the global Fish2.0 competition, is currently engaged in research on the potential to enrich fish feed with bioactive compounds from plant material by feeding it to the larvae. If the results are positive, there is huge potential for using larvae to deliver other compounds, such as vaccines and other health promoting substances. Recent efforts to reduce the amount of fishmeal in diets, including the HeroX Fish Free Feed Challenge (which ended in September 2017) have made significant improvements in FIFO ratios and reduced production costs. However, this has sometimes been to the detriment of fish health. Recent outbreaks of disease in tilapia in Thailand have been blamed on higher inclusion of soybean meal in feed, replacing animal proteins. There is also a concern over the palatability of feeds which contain lower levels of fishmeal, with many carnivorous fish simply failing to recognise it as food, leading to lower FCR, reduced water quality, and poor health outcomes. It has been suggested that the non-essential amino acid glutamic acid may be the key to fishmeal’s palatability, so identifying alternative sources could be a quick way to reduce this dependency. The strong, rich smelling BSFL protein contains high levels of glutamic acid, and this suggestion is supported in recent trials with BSFL. One of Nutrition Technologies’ current research projects is testing the hypothesis that low levels of BSFL inclusion will enable nutritionists to further reduce the level of fishmeal in the formulation. So is flymeal a silver bullet for aquaculture? Not yet, as there is still a lot of work to do, but it is a huge step in the right direction. And as the demand for sustainability, quality and traceability is growing globally, the businesses that will benefit are those that can provide quality products at a competitive price. The current crop of flymeal producers are promising to do just that.
14 | December 2017 - International Aquafeed