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Execs say alternative feeds are still far from commercial success

Scalability and cost efficiencies at large-scale get in the way of industrial success for alternative ingredients, execs say.

Despite alternative feed ingredient executives claiming their products' success depends on growing consumer awareness of the pressure on wild-catch fisheries, fishmeal researchers and executives told IntraFish alternatives have a long way to go to be commercially competitive with traditional feed and oil.

"It's not only about the scalability of the production, but also about costs," Peruvian fishmeal giant Pesquera Diamante CEO Pablo Trapunsky told IntraFish.

"Significant cost differences exist between producing fishmeal and another protein ingredient, which needs to be taken into account."

The Netherlands-based alternative feed ingredient firm Veramaris opened its $200 million (€178.3 million), omega-3 enriched marine algal oil facility in Nebraska on July 10, its first industrial-scale facility since the company was launched.

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The Marine Ingredients Organisation (IFFO) welcomes all additional feed ingredients making their way into the aquaculture industry, which could help in feeding the growing world population, however, the group does not see alternative ingredients as a challenge to traditional feed.

"We are confident of the unique traditional value of marine ingredients and the fact they are irreplaceable, especially in aquafeed, as much as we are confident that we provide sustainable products," IFFO Market Research Director Enrico Bachis told IntraFish.

Bachis did not comment on the progress made by Veramaris or other emerging alternative feed ingredient companies into the commercialization of their products. But he pointed out the big task ahead is to provide the market with the "hundreds of thousands of metric tons of feed ingredients needed in the coming years."

One crucial issue in the search for alternative protein is the difference in amino-acid levels between the protein sources.

"Fishmeal has around 20 of the 22 essential amino-acids human beings need, there is no other alternative that can beat this," the Peruvian specialist Trapunsky explained.

In addition, volumes of alternative protein ingredients are still "incipient," Trapunsky said, and there is a long way to go before companies can produce large volumes at efficient costs compared with fishmeal.

Marine ingredients need to be combined with other other feed ingredients in order to reach the tonnage needed to meet the farming industry's growing demand, Bachis said.

"Feeding the world is a challenge that we need to face and overcome together," he said.

In terms of replacement possibilities, non-animal oils are much more advanced than protein alternatives.

For example, the marine algal oil produced by Veramaris contains twice the amount of omega-3 longchain fatty acids EPA and DHA than average fish oil, according to the company.

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