Salmon aquaculture feed is getting an ingredient overhaul

Lead researchers Trine Ytrestøyl and Turid Synnøve Aas at Nofima are among the authors of the Nofima report

© Terje Aamodt

For the fifth time since 2010, Nofima has compiled an overview of the ingredients used in Norwegian salmon feed. The documentation is based on foods in 2020 from the four largest food companies. It shows that the feed composition for Norwegian farmed salmon is approximately the same as in the previous report from 2016. The same is true for salmon feed utilization. However, there was a slight increase in the volume of farmed salmon and farmed salmon.

Insect meal and microalgae in food

But there is a small and important change.

“It’s that some new ingredients, such as insect meal, single-cell proteins, fermented products and microalgae were used,” says Aas.

Aas is a food and nutrition researcher at Nofima and lead author of the recent report on feed resource utilization in Norwegian salmon farming.

“The report provides a basis for decision-makers on how we can use resources and manage them in the best possible way,” says Aas.

In this latest report, new food ingredients such as insect meals, single cell proteins, fermented products and microalgae were included. These represented a small proportion, only 0.4 percent of the total volume of salmon feed, or 8,000 tonnes in total. In 2020, a total of 1.98 million tonnes of ingredients were used and 1.47 million tonnes of salmon and 0.9 million tonnes of rainbow trout were produced.

Import of raw food ingredients

The Norwegian government has set a goal for more salmon feed to be produced from Norwegian resources and for all feed to come from sustainable sources. This report from Nofima provides insight into how fish feed has been doing from the start.

Norwegian Minister for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Bjørnar Skjæran
Norwegian Minister for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Bjørnar Skjæran

© Emil Bremnes

“Animal feed is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the aquaculture industry. It is therefore crucial that more manufacturers use new sustainable raw materials. Over the next few years, we are to see a strong increase in the use of sustainable raw materials produced in Norway. This can lay the foundations for a new industrial adventure along the coast,” says Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Bjørnar Skjæran.

8% of fish feed ingredients in 2020 were produced in Norway and 92% were imported. Norway only supplied fish oils and fish meal to the feed, so new ingredients such as insect meal were not produced in Norway as of 2020.

“The government aims to have all feed for aquaculture come from sustainable sources by 2030, and this will create a new industry in Norway. If we are to be successful in finding the best and most efficient solutions, the industry, research and politics must work together,” says Skjæran.

8 percent of fish feed ingredients in 2020 were produced in Norway and 92 percent were imported
8 percent of fish feed ingredients in 2020 were produced in Norway and 92 percent were imported

Nofima’s report does not assess whether the ingredients are sustainable. But the researchers looked at the certifications. The majority of marine raw materials are certified under various schemes, and all soy protein concentrates have been certified as non-genetically modified.

The researchers also documented the country or region of origin for nearly every ingredient. The report shows that just over 10% of these ingredients came from Russia in 2020.

A glimpse of rainbow trout

Norway has a rainbow trout production which corresponds to 6% of the salmon production. Resource utilization in trout production was reported for the first time. The report shows that there are some minor differences in usage between the two species, but they are nearly equal.

The distribution of food

The salmon diet in 2020 consisted of 12% fishmeal, 10% fish oil, 41% vegetable protein sources, 20% vegetable oils, 13% carbohydrate sources and 4% micro-ingredients. Additionally, 0.4% of new ingredients such as insect meal and microalgae were used.

Bente Torstensen, a former fish nutrition researcher and now head of the aquaculture division at Nofima, thinks it’s promising, despite the low numbers.

“There is a huge volume of an ingredient needed to make up a large part of the salmon feed. It is very demanding, but it is happening. We encourage small and large producers who invest and dare to try their luck, because it determines how much and how quickly the salmon’s diet changes,” says Torstensen.

Click here for an in-depth review of the survey and click here to read Nofima’s final project report.