Accelerating Sustainable Production in Aquaculture

As the world's population grows, demand for animal protein will continue to rise, placing tremendous pressure on the planet's finite resources. Producing more animal protein from aquaculture species is one solution to meet this growing demand. The ability of aquaculture to help meet the protein demand of the future increase in world population is well recognised (2.2 billion population by 2050) (FAIRR, 2019).

As a result, Aquaculture continues to grow faster than other food sectors, with global production estimated at 109 million tons by 2030 due to impressive industry growth rates estimated at 37% compared to 2016 (FAO, 2018). Regional consumer trends show an increase in protein demand, especially in Asia whose citizens are shifting from vegetable-based to protein rich diets (FAIRR, 2019; FAO, 2018; FAO, 2019). Over 40 different species represent 90% of global aquaculture, and although carp species dominate by mass, there is increasing demand for higher value species. Shrimp, pangasius, tilapia and salmon, are particularly popular in high income countries and represent approximately 24% of global aquaculture production by mass.

At the current rate of consumption, the world will require another 30-40 million tons of fish and shrimp by 2030 to meet this protein demand which must be produced within planetary boundaries. This growth in aquaculture production, and indeed any animal protein, places tremendous demands on the world’s natural resources and, as has been reported widely, will lead to increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and greater environmental impacts, taking our food systems well beyond many of the planet’s boundaries. The sustainability of animal protein production is now front and center in the minds of many and calls for change in the way we produce are widespread.

Since 2014, aquaculture has provided more fish for human consumption than capture fisheries, and by 2030 it is expected to contribute 60% of the total fish and shrimp available for human consumption. Expanding the role of aquaculture in meeting the progress towards ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition is as important as the focus on increasing production. Aquaculture is uniquely positioned to be one of the driving forces needed to address the nutrition challenges that we face in the world today (FAO, 2019). And there are several ways in which aquaculture is considered an efficient and sustainable way to produce protein. For example, farmed salmon is considered to have a low carbon footprint, a high protein retention and an efficient feed conversion ratio. Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) is the most widely used unit for measuring animal production efficiency. Even though, an efficient FCR is clearly an advantage, as a single measurement it is not the whole picture when it comes to measuring production efficiency and multiple factors should be considered.

Some key sustainability challenges must be addressed today, such as the over-reliance on finite marine resources, survival rates in aquaculture species, the responsible use of soy and nitrogen and phosphorus emissions to the aquatic environment. But when it comes to protein production from aquaculture, what are the metrics we use to measure sustainability? Carbon footprint, ecological footprint and ultimately a full LCA analysis measuring up to 19 impact factors are the key metrics for assessing the environmental impact (Fry et al., 2018). When considering the sustainability impact of aquaculture to the environment, it is well documented that compound feed, used in about 70% of global aquaculture, is the largest contributor to the environmental footprint of aquaculture (FAO, 2009; Tacon et al., 2015). For measuring the impact of the marine raw materials in feed, other metrics such as Forage fish dependency ratio (FFDR), Fish In Fish Out (FIFO), overfishing, Maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and primary productivity are also a focus for the aquaculture industry. When assigning how animal production can sustainably meet future protein demand, a full life cycle analysis that covers all 19 environmental metrics should be conducted for different animal production systems. What’s more, to ensure tangible improvements in environmental footprint, such measurement needs to be carried out at farm level using actual farm data. In order to bring about meaningful change, it is definitely time for us as an aquaculture industry to move away from “story telling” and focus on metrics for measurement of sustainability indicators and monitoring change that matters.   

The need to provide enough animal protein for a growing population, while reducing the environmental costs of farming will require smart science and innovative solutions. This will make it possible to grow aquaculture in a sustainable and profitable way.  DSM cares about the aquatic environment and is addressing this challenge with its strategic initiative: We Make It Possible.

Its purpose is to help the industry to build a robust and achievable transformation worldwide towards more sustainable animal protein production and to accelerate science-based solutions that will foster a brighter future for everyone. A win-win for the whole value chain from farmers to consumers, and future generations. We Make It Possible is based on addressing 6 key sustainability & business platforms:

At DSM, we are committed to unleashing the power of aquaculture by delivering solutions designed for the aquaculture industry which further drive sustainable production. Aquaculture comes from the latin word aqua, meaning water, and it is the farming of fish, crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic plants and other organisms. Water is one of the key elements for life. Water makes up 60% of our body weight and covers 70% of the earth surface. Water is in and around us. That is why we care about water and the life above and below its surface.

We want to play a key role in driving the sustainable growth of aquaculture and we work at species and country level, with our partners, to provide tangible solutions to make this happen.

If not us, who?

If not now, when?

Together, We Make It Possible! 

Published on

29 October 2021

About the Author

Fabio Cervellione - Director Nutrition & Health Solution Aqua Global at G.O. Johnsen AS

Fabio is a Director Nutrition & Health Solution Aqua Global at G.O. Johnsen AS, which markets DSM Nutritional Products.

He holds a veterinary degree obtained at University of Milan, MSc in Aquatic Veterinary Studies at Stirling University and PhD in veterinary medicine at Ghent University.

Fabio has more than 15 years of experience in the aquaculture industry, through different local and global roles in technical service, sales, R&D and marketing. 

Louise Buttle - Global Marketing Director Aqua

Louise is the Global Marketing Director for Aqua.  She holds a PhD obtained at the University of Hull, UK.

Louise has over two decades of industry experience in aquaculture, for much of this time with EWOS and Cargill in the salmon farming countries;  Scotland, Chile and Norway.  Louise held various positions in R&D, product development,  innovation and sustainability.  Louise joined DSM in May 2019 and is committed to deliver solutions supporting the further development of  sustainable aquaculture.  

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