Aquaculture for all

Study suggests mycoprotein beats soybeans in aquafeeds

Atlantic Salmon Feed ingredients Health +7 more

A new study conducted by researchers at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) shows that using Enifer’s proprietary Pekilo Aqua mycoprotein, which is produced from Nordic forestry by-products, has a significant positive impact on the immune system and growth of salmon.

a man sitting on a chair in a factory
Enifer’s CEO, Simo Ellilä

The company spun out from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in 2020 to further develop a process originally developed and used by the Finnish forest industry at a commercial scale. The technology enables the biotechnological conversion of by-products into a high-protein feed ingredient © Enifer

The study was conducted by a group of researchers led by Professor Margareth Øverland and shows that juvenile salmon growing in freshwater fed with the mycoprotein had a significant activation in their immune system and grew better, as the feed was more efficiently converted by the fish.

“For the first time, the studies carried out at NMBU show that our Pekilo Aqua mycoprotein not only provides fish with protein, but actually brings clear added benefits to fish health and growth compared to conventional proteins like soya. These benefits arise from the unique composition of our fungal protein. The fact that Pekilo Aqua can be produced sustainably, competitively and close to the fish farmers makes it particularly attractive to industry. In this study, we used Norwegian forest industry by-products to produce feed for Norwegian salmon,” said Joosu Kuivanen, chief operating officer at Enifer, in a press release.

According to Statista, humans consumed 160 million tonnes of farmed and wild fish in 2021. Aquaculture production has overtaken wild fish catch and is the most rapidly expanding food production sector, requiring huge amounts of new high-quality protein feeds. Increasing the farmed fish’s immune system is vital for fish farmers, who struggle with a variety of infectious agents that can cause different levels of deformations or even death in large quantities.

Enifer’s proprietary technology can upcycle by-products from diverse agriculture, food and forest industry processes into its mycoprotein, which consists of about 65 percent protein, 15 percent beta-glucans, 10 percent fats and minerals, and has a high concentration of vitamin B.

As Enifer explains, given that beta-glucans are added separately to traditional aquafeeds, this is an unnecessary step if Pekilo Aqua is used.

Soybeans are the most commonly used protein source in aquafeed today, but their cultivation can lead to increased deforestation, while shipping it across the world significantly impacts the sustainability of the supply chain, notes Enifer. It also makes the whole industry heavily dependent on a few selected production countries and reliant on their stability. Global soybean production is steadily growing, with the US Department of Agriculture estimating that 403 million tonnes will be harvested this season.

By comparison, Enifer notes that “Pekilo Aqua mycoprotein has a lower carbon footprint than imported soybean, as it is produced without using new agricultural land and very little water, offering a sustainable and self-sufficient alternative for the European market”.

“The world’s protein demand is growing, and farmed fish is the most sustainable and healthy animal protein for human consumption today. By lowering the environmental impact of the supply chain of aquafeed while improving the growing conditions of fish, we can make the whole industry more sustainable. Together with our partners in academia, we continue to research the health benefits of Pekilo mycoprotein and are looking forward to bringing our solution to market – from aquafeed, to petfood and all the way to human consumption,” Enifer’s CEO Simo Ellilä concludes.

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