High hopes for astaxathin alternative

A line of aquafeed ingredients which contains bio-astaxanthin – the carotenoid that gives salmon, rainbow trout and shrimp significant health benefits as well as their characteristic pink colour – was launched this week by Knipbio.

KnipBio’s product is created from a strain of the leaf symbiont Methylobacterium extorquens, which produces astaxanthin in commercially relevant quantities. This breakthrough provides the aquaculture industry a new source of biologically produced astaxanthin that is competitively priced with synthetic versions of the product derived from petrochemicals. 

According to Larry Feinberg, CEO of KnipBio: “For several years our research team has been working on a new technology for the aquaculture industry that we call protein-plus – immunonutrients with premium protein to make KnipBio meal a superior feed ingredient. We have now developed a proprietary biological pathway that allows our microbe to produce astaxanthin in concentrations that make it effective for salmon and other species at inclusion rates of 5 percent or less of a formulated feed. This is great news for salmon, trout, and shrimp farmers looking for an affordable and natural alternative to synthetic astaxanthin. It’s also great news for consumers, as our research shows they prefer food products made from natural ingredients.” 

Astaxanthin is an antioxidant approved as an additive for salmon, trout and shrimp whose reported health benefits in animals include faster growth, better feed conversion rates, improved disease resistance and reduced embryonic mortality. The aquaculture industry currently consumes more than $300 million per year of this carotenoid. Naturally-derived astaxanthin is more easily digested and absorbed by fish than synthetic versions but production challenges have made it significantly more expensive. KnipBio’s astaxanthin product will be the first new natural source in over a decade and is produced via a fermentation process using low-cost and readily available ethanol, methanol, and other waste feedstocks.  

“In addition to astaxanthin, our new strain is a source of powerful immune-boosting prebiotic compounds and proteins that closely resembles the amino acid profile of fishmeal. The combination of premium proteins plus immunonutrients plus natural astaxanthin is an ideal solution for salmonid and shrimp aquaculture. In fact, this trifecta of benefits could be the killer app for aquaculture,” added Feinberg. 

"We are continuing to advance our technology and believe even higher performing strains may soon be within reach. Additionally, we are planning a series of feed trials with industry partners to compare KnipBio meal’s digestibility, tissue deposition, and retention against synthetic and other natural forms of astaxanthin. We expect these trials to demonstrate the health benefits of our ingredients and confirm the validity of our protein-plus strategy.” 

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Rob Fletcher

Rob Fletcher

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