by Rebecca Sherratt, Production editor, Fish Farming Technology & International Aquafeed


Innovative live feed distributors Planktonic revealed at the 2018 Aquaculture Innovation Europe conference in London, UK, their secret source of live feed for larval shrimp and finfish.

The hatchery feed production sector has been left wondering what exactly is Norway-based Planktonic"s secret behind their marine feeds, and Planktonic CEO, Rune Husby, finally confirmed it to be barnacle nauplii. This miraculous innovation has proven especially popular in Norway, Planktonic already having 30 percent of the starter feed market for cleaner fish produced in Norway alone.

Husby went on to state that barnacle nauplii is an excellent alternative to artemia and rotifiers, with an "optimal nutritional profile, unparalleled biosecurity and an unparalleled stability in product quality."

Planktonic"s commercial success, CryoPlankton, uses liquid nitrogen to cryo-preserve the barnacle nauplii, to allow hatchery managers to "revive them again" when needed.


What does this mean for hatcheries?

Several years ago the fish sector in Norway were given some samples of the new barnacle nauplii feed, and results had only been positive. Lumpfish and wrasse, Husby notes, displayed "improved growth and higher stress tolerance" compared to those fed on artemia and rotifiers.

Trials were also successful in Greece, Portugal, where the fish fed this specific live feed had improved rates of survival, growth and a lower presence of vibrio, which commonly causes food-borne infections in humans upon exposure. Ecuador fish farms also noted similarly successful effects from the innovative feed when given to shrimps.

These endless successes only further accelerated the growth of CryoPlankton, into its now hugely successful commercial venture, with sales and production only continuing to increase and expand.

Other benefits of the barnacle nauplii cryo-preserve feed include its ease of use. The feed need not be kept and cultivated as live stock, it is always ready when the fish need to eat. Planktonic also state that the time spent cleaning tanks for bacteria growth reduces to almost zero, with the use of the new fish feed. The feed takes up minimal storage, making hatcheries increasingly more space efficient, alongside being a much more low-maintenance option.

Mr Marco Schaer, CEO of SalMar at Langstein, stated at the 2017 Cleanerfish Conference, that through his use of Planktonic feed, the mortality rates of his cleanerfish have been reduced from 18 percent to three percent.

For farmers who want to be supplied with barnacle nauplii fish feed, the process is remarkably simple. Planktonic deliver the frozen feed in what they define as "user-friendly quantities", in pellets what can easily be stored and frozen, at -196 degrees Celsius. The end-user need only take a desired amount of CryoPlankton pellets, thaw, wash and revitalise them, ready to feed their fish. Salmon do not, incidentally, require live feed, but can feed on inert feed from birth.

Due to their status as being cryo-preserved, this feed is also readily available for farmers all year round. The simplification of the process means that the feed is more accessible to a wider range of farms, with a competitive cost. Planktonic recommend barnacle nauplii feed as an alternative both to dry feed and artemia.

"When we have tests and demonstrations for fish farmers, we have to spend the first few hours explaining the simplicity of our product. They are so used to spending a lot of time and labour on live feeds that they do not believe that we can supply a product as simple as we do," says Husby.

Biosecurity also no longer need be an issue for farmers who choose barnacle nauplii live feed. Traditional feed cultures often display readings up to 50 percent opportunistic bacteria present, such as vibrio and pasteurella, a dangerous possible source of infection for consumers. Barnacle nauplii live feed, when analysed for various viruses and parasites, has repeatedly proven to show no detection of multiple parasites, also including nodavirus, VHS-virus, salmonella, furunculosis and amoebic gill disease (AGD). The minimal bacteria quantities are achievable thanks to Planktonic"s innovative microbe-suppression technologies. Furthermore, the cryoprotectant agent, as well as the freezing process, also kills microbes.


A sustainable step forward

Currently the primary source of live feed has been artemia, an aquatic crustacean commonly known as brine shrimp. The use of artemia, however, is far from a sustainable solution. Artemia is not found in the ocean, rather instead they are present in inland salt lakes. It is an especially expensive process to gather them as fish feed.

Plankton must be hatched and cultivated in tanks on fish farm premises, where they eat vast quantities of algae. Juvenile fish then eat the artemia, and through them gain nutrition from the algae. This multi-layered process costs a significant amount of money, as well as time, that many fish farmers are not satisfied with as a reliable and sustainable source of feed. Alongside this, artemia also breeds a variety of the aforementioned bacteria that can cause unpleasant illnesses and even death, an issue barnacle nauplii doesn"t have.

Unlike artemia, barnacle nauplii is also accessible worldwide, not limiting Planktonic simply to Norway. "There are enormous amounts of this species in many ocean areas across the globe. That means that we can establish factories several places in the world – depending on where the demand is," notes Husby.

"There is a lot of evolution in aquaculture, – a constant flow of incremental improvements" Husby continues. "But this, on the other hand, is a revolution.

"To deliver live feed, rich in marine fatty acids, directly from the sea in a way that is simple to use for the fish farmer, changes all the premises for those who want to farm species like cod, halibut, shrimp and other marine species."


Planktonic"s role

Planktonic are currently processing barnacles at a grow-out site in Norway and have voiced their plans to produce a wide variety of production techniques for consumers, all of which use the substrate they have developed to assist in growing the larvae. Commercial sales on large scales are also proving very successful and effective, with nine tonnes of CryoPlankton being produced in 2018 alone, and Chief Technology Officer Mr Nils EgilTokle noting that most of this stock has rapidly been sold. Production and sales are only expected to further increase into 2019.

Husby says Planktonic"s next aim is to enter into the Mediterranean marine finfish feed market, a test he believes is easily achievable, given that it took merely two years for Planktonic fish feed to capture 30 percent of the Norwegian fish feed market.

Planktonic"s miraculous cryo-preservation technology has established them as a key business in the feed industry, despite their still relative youth. It took Planktonic approximately a decade to refine their preservation technology, starting in 2009 and beginning industrial tests in 2016, and since then the company has soared to new heights, now a global success who only continue to expand.

Planktonic began their studies into cryo-preservation on simple zooplankton, adapting their knowledge of the needs of commercial aquaculture with the latest in scientific innovation. Upon harvesting the feed they require, Planktonic freeze the feed in liquid nitrogen within one hour of it being caught, enabling the preservation of the feed for an indefinite amount of time. Planktonic aim to completely replace the use of rotifier and artemia as feed, propelling cryo-preserved fish feed into the future.

Businesses clearly seem to expect big things from Planktonic and how they are challenging the aquaculture industry"s limits. In the past few mponths, Planktonic'sCryoplankton has proven to be a brilliant substitute for artemia, increasing survival rates of ballan wrasse by 20 percent. At the Government Conference on Future Aquaculture, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg commended Planktonic, citing them as an example of a company that can develop the future of aquaculture in a new way which may prove to be as big and successful as the salmon industry.

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