Farmed Fish for a Blue Revolution
Despite nearly 90 per cent of Australians living within 50 kilometres of coastline, seafood imports accounted for more than 60 per cent of the 350, 000 tonnes consumed domestically in 2021.
According to government data, an average Australian consumes almost 14 kilograms of seafood annually – in comparison to 19 kilograms of beef and 40 kilograms of chicken.
Global demand for proteins is tipped to double with the planet’s population projected to balloon another two billion by 2050. Australia’s own population is forecast to double in fewer than 50 years – framing the need to secure our future food supplies while remaining competitive in global markets.
“Internationally, Australia is renowned as a world-class producer of the highest quality, safe and sustainable seafood,” said Manildra Group Export Sales Manager Adam Armstrong of the domestic aquaculture sector’s more recent expansion to include finfish such as barramundi and kingfish.
As volumes of wild-caught seafood are increasingly replaced by production of farmed salmonids, prawns, abalone and tuna, Australian aquaculture has sustainably diversified into an industry worth $2.29 billion in 2022-23.
“With the world hungry for sustainable, diversified sources of edible protein, a thriving aquaculture industry can help support this demand at home and abroad,” said Mr Armstrong.
Globally, aquaculture has been the fastest-growing food production sector since the 1950s – doubling production every decade, with an average annual growth rate of seven per cent outstripping human population growth (0.5 per cent) and food production on land (two per cent).
“To achieve improved quality of farmed fish through balanced nutrition for sustainable growth, fish feed plays a crucial role in modern aquaculture and Australian vital wheat gluten is a key ingredient in a range of fish feeds used by the world’s leading and largest aquaculture companies,” said Mr Armstrong.
Innovations in nutrition and fish feed development over the past four decades, through the elimination of unsustainable ingredients including fish meal and oil (made from smaller wild-caught or farmed stock), have been critical to best-practice modernisation globally.
As fish farms steadily overtake wild-caught as Australia’s predominant seafood production source – with more than 40 species now commercially produced – Mr Armstrong said there had also been a shift away from fish-derived feeds in exchange for sustainable plant-based protein sources such as vital wheat gluten.
Enabling nutritional balance and digestibility requirements to be tailored to species and developmental periods, the advancement of dry pelletised fish feeds formulated with Manildra Group’s all-Australian vital wheat gluten, delivered “a high protein content and incredible source of amino acids, to reduce antibiotic use for healthier, quality seafood”, said Mr Armstrong.
“Pelletised fish feed is integral to the taste, texture, and nutritional value of cultured fish, and our vital wheat gluten is a fundamental ingredient in these feed formulations.
“Demonstrated to improve farming yields, vital wheat gluten’s exceptional binding and palatability properties encourage fish to fully consume formulated feeds before dissolving.
Prompt consumption means more of the feed and its nutritional benefits are converted to the fish with less loss to the environment, and water conditions are improved.”
With increasing consumer demand for foods and beverages made with more sustainable protein sources such as vital wheat gluten, there is significant growth potential for seafood produced through aquaculture as a major source of sustainable protein, in an alternative to wild-caught fish.
Initially exporting to the Taiwanese prawn industry in 1985 and supplying the Tasmanian salmon industry from the late-1980s., Manildra Group vital wheat gluten exports have expanded into Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.
Mr Simpson told The Cultivator of “remarkable” future growth opportunities in the South American salmon, trout and cod industries for Manildra Group’s Australian-grown and made vital wheat gluten – “long-prized as an optimal protein-boosting ingredient” in fish feed formulations to enhance health and nutrition – in addition to global product development innovations “such as using sustainably-grown vegetable oils in exchange for fish oils in feed formulations”.
“Today, our vital wheat gluten is an integral ingredient in tailored fish feed formulations for domestic and global markets ranging from salmon and barramundi to rainbow trout, prawns and more,” Mr Simpson said.