Alltech InDepth: The future of healthy and profitable aquaculture- Eindhoven, Netherlands, October 1-2, 2019
by Vaughn Entwistle, Managing Editor, International Aquafeed
Whenever feed giant Alltech schedules an event, it is invariably a major production with very high levels of technical content, often at the very cutting edge, and the event at Eindhoven was no exception.
The plenary speakers: Aqua InDepth featured five illustrious speakers.
Doctor Mark Lyons PhD
AllTech President and CEO set the conference tone with a message of positivity and hope. His opening slide simply stated, 'We are not doomed,' echoing the same theme that was iterated at the Alltech Ideas 2019 Planet of Plenty conference back in May 2019.
Dr Lyon's take home message was the same as in that earlier conference: Human beings are immensely resourceful. Despite the challenges of population growth and climate crisis, we are not doomed if we focus on sustainability and collaboration.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that we will need to increase food production by 25-to-70 percent to feed a projected population possibly exceeding eight to nine billion by 2050. Given these numbers with the additional complication of Global Heating, the challenges look daunting.
However, Dr Lyons' belief is that the technologies that will create the future are already in our hands, and by bringing together highly skilled individuals, we can leverage the collective genius of the group and accomplish amazing things.
Alltech has backed up this philosophy with actions, as it has invested massively in research while also establishing research alliances with companies all over the world. Alltech has also been able to leap-frog its technology by acquiring eighteen businesses within six years.
In 2016, Alltech acquired Coppens International, a leading international aquatic feed solutions company in the Netherlands. At the time, Coppens International's specialties included temperate and tropical marine and freshwater diets for a variety of juvenile and adult species.
Dr Albert Tacon
Next up was aquaculture nutritionist Dr Albert Tacon, who echoed Mark Lyon's message of positivity by introducing the Hawaiian phrase 'A 'ohe hana nui ke alu' ia' which translates into English as 'No task is too big when done together.'
Dr Tacon (who is based in Hawaii) began with his observation that global aquaculture has already exceeded the output of capture fisheries. He predicted that, because most coastal waters are publicly owned, the future of aquaculture will involve a move to the deep oceans and onto the land in the form of RAS farming.
He followed with a breakdown of the major species being farmed around the world and noted that the majority of fish currently produced globally are freshwater species. He predicts that shrimp will be produced in large tank systems covered by plastic for biosecurity. He also noted that, despite the rise of aquaculture in the West in recent times, Asia still produces 91 percent of farmed fish/seafood.
Dr Tacon sees the rise of aquaculture as a solution to two of the most pressing needs the planet currently faces: the famine crisis and the obesity crisis. He pointed out that consumers in Asian countries such as Japan, consume a great deal of fish and seafood in their diet and consequently have high longevity rates.
By contrast, consumers in western countries, such as Europe (apart from Norway and Spain), South America and North America, have low fish consumption rates and much higher incidence of obesity with correspondingly shorter life spans.
The financial aspects of aquaculture were addressed by the next speaker, Gorian Nikolik, Senior Industry Analyst, Food & Agribusiness Research & Advisory, Rabobank Industrial.
Mr Nikolik spoke about investment in key aquaculture value chains. Although salmon farming is the most technologically advanced form of aquaculture as practiced in western countries, it is still dwarfed by aquaculture practiced in Asian countries such as China. From an economic perspective, Mr Nikolik noted that aquaculture outperforms every other agricultural sector in terms of percent gross margin.
Nikolik sees a much higher growth in RAS aquaculture for the future. Shrimp will also gain in precedence, although the shrimp sector is more greatly affected by disease cycles than finned fish aquaculture. Due to domestic demand for shrimp within the shrimp-growing countries, many countries have turned from shrimp-producers into shrimp importers.
Although Thailand was once the biggest supplier of shrimp to North America, India has now overtaken it while China has overtaken everyone as the largest shrimp importer.
Offshore fish farming and RAS will be the next big players in the aquaculture market, and feed manufacturers will need to produce special feeds for those applications. Mr Nikolik spoke about how Rabobank has continued to support aquaculture even in cases such as Chilean fish farming, which was wiped out by disease once, and then a second time.
Despite this the bank stood by the farmers and now the industry has returned to profitability. He explained how future trends can sometimes be unpredictable and difficult to predict. A German movie that portrayed fish farms growing Pangasius led to a decline in the consumption of that fishing.
An emerging business model is the rise of aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa (especially Egypt) which are now doing a great job of supplying fish to the rest of Africa. He also sees Brazil as potentially the next South American aquaculture powerhouse due to low cost feed supply.
In more future trends, he believes that biocides, vaccines and other alternatives to antibiotics will be a game-changing technology. Finally, China will need to modernise its aquaculture industry much as the US and Europe has already done.
Dr Philip Lyons
Mark Lyon's message of progress through research was echoed by Dr Philip Lyons, who spoke about building an innovative research platform to meet the needs of a fast-changing industry.
Lyons spoke about the All-Coppens Research Centre. Originally developed by Coppens International, when the company was acquired by Alltech the centre was fully refurbished by Alltech into a centre of excellence. The centre works with many fish species, with a special focus on trout, sturgeon, African catfish, eels, carp, tilapia and salmon.
He described how applied research produces rapidly applicable results. This research has facilitated the evolution of industrial fish feeds. In the past there was a focus by nutritionists on protein, wheat, fat and fishmeal.
At the present there is a focus on digestible protein, digestible energy, balanced AA profile, and DHA and EPA. Dr Lyons predicts that in the future there will be a focus on digestible and balanced AA profile, digestible carbohydrates, net energy, sustainability, functional fatty acids and enzymes, the microbiome, functional programming and organic minerals.
First Alltech Inventor Prize
But not just high-tech solutions provided the focus for the morning plenary session. A terrific example was provided by the winner of the Alltech Inventor Prize, a programme based on crowd-sourcing ideas that could improve all areas of the aquaculture industry – from the hatchery to marketing.
The inaugural invention prize featured Highly Commended runners up and a Winner:
Highly Commended: Dr Deer Chanpipatkul (Thaiva Lab Co Ltd) for his solution involving the potential use of green Lipped Mussel powder (EGSMP) to improve the health and yield of aquaculture grown seafood.
Highly Commended: Bert Meijer ng Topsy Baits, from the Netherlands, for its solution of low temperature dehydration of polychaetes to preserve nutrition and enable lower cost global transportation.
Winner: Zoran Tepic, Ribjnak Janj d.o.o., Tropic Ribarstvo for the on-farm peracetic acid dispenser which treats fish with the optimum concentration off solution over a fixed duration by continual dosing using Evangalista Torricelli's formula.
Tropic Ribarstvo is a privately-owned fish farm in Bosnia and Herzegovina fish farm. They won for their low-tech, but highly effective invention – a peracetic acid dispenser for rainbow trout. Tropic Ribarstvo received its prize, comprising EUR €2,000 (US $2,183) worth of Alltech Coppens feed and the support of its innovation team to help develop the idea for the aquaculture industry.
As Alltech Coppens CEO Patrick Charlton explained, 'Traditionally, the flow in the fish tank is stopped and the peracetic acid is manually applied to the water – this can cause additional stress on the fish and uneven distribution of the therapeutic. This invention is an extremely efficient method of treating fish in a way that ensures safe and stable dosing while minimising stress to fish stock during the process.'
The conference programs
The morning Plenary Sessions were followed by separate sessions for Finfish and Shrimp.
Factory and Research Centre visit
The next day, Wednesday October 2nd, delegates were driven to Germany, where they were able to tour the Alltech feed factory. This vast, modern plant is largely automated and produces a wide variety of feeds for both farmed and ornamental fish.
The day concluded with a tour of the Alltech Coppens research facility which has both RAS systems and outdoor ponds and raceways. The two-day event was informative and impressive in content and scope.
In all, the conferences were attended by more than 200 delegates from 42 countries. I personally learned a lot and hope to attend the next Alltech Ideas conference in Kentucky in 2020.