Blue Impact: Transforming Aquaculture

Scottish Sea Farms, Lober Rock

The aquaculture industry must contribute to the global food challenge of feeding an ever-growing population. To achieve success, it is estimated that global food production will need to double by 2050.

For this to happen, significant changes throughout the sector are inevitable. Reducing the environmental impact whilst improving the social aspects are natural steps in sustainable aquaculture development. At the same time, the importance of a sound economic sector must not be underestimated. Economics are a key driver in accelerating any change in any sector.

No compromise
Blue Impact is BioMar’s global brand dedicated to sustainability and driving change in aquaculture. It is centred around aqua feeds lowering carbon emissions, utilising more circular and restorative raw materials, and minimising ingredients derived from wild fish stocks.

In the past, when creating diets, it has always been a juggling act to ensure we meet our farmers sustainability targets without taking away from other important aspects. Blue Impact is our first ‘no compromise’ feed that will allow farmers to meet their sustainability targets without having to make sacrifices with regard to their environmental, social, or economic aspirations. At the same time, the feed will optimise performance and fish health. Finally, every portion of Blue Impact fed salmon, offers all the benefits to human health of well-balanced omega 3 and 6 levels.

Blue Impact will be the catalyst for driving change. We will use applied, science-based sustainability methods to select low impact ingredients to progressively transform aquaculture. Novel ingredients with a sustainable profile will be first included in Blue Impact feeds.

Environmental impact
Increasing aquaculture production sounds easy, but the true challenge is that we aim to achieve this without taking more fish from the ocean or using more agricultural land for crops.

The overall objective to reduce global greenhouse gasses has been adopted by various industries and many companies. Companies that are reporting on their sustainability efforts are doing their utmost to lower the emissions through scopes 1 and 2. For scope 3, companies are looking at or collaborating with their suppliers and buyers. The International Panel on Climate Change has set a clear target for the world to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, but in the next 8 years we should have already reduced emissions by 50%.

As aqua feed contributes up to 80% of most environmental impacts in aqua-culture production, we at BioMar take our responsibility seriously. We are working together with our raw material suppliers to stop deforestation. We are investigating how to restore degraded lands. We have allied with partners to convert CO2 into durable carbon. And we need to work together to increase food production efficiencies and reduce food losses.

Social impact
In addition to reducing the environmental impact, we also continue to improve the social sustainability of the industry. With this, our first Blue Impact salmon feed focuses first and foremost on the health aspects for both humans and fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to human health and must be sourced through our diet as the human body cannot produce them itself. Fatty fish like salmon is known to be rich in omega-3. However, just like humans, farmed salmon require omega-3 to boost their health, robustness, and growth.

Farmed salmon have traditionally got their omega-3 through the inclusion of fishmeal and fish oil in their diet. Producing these is extremely resource intensive, with a third of the global fish stocks going toward making fish meal and fish oil. Through novel ingredients such as AlgaPrime™, Blue Impact utilises low-trophic ingredients, bypassing the food chain and going directly to the source of these important nutrients. This will allow us to increase the amount of omega-3, without taking anything away from the natural food chain and helping restore these ecosystems.

Another issue was created with the growing inclusion of plant materials, up from 20% in 1990 to 70% in 2020. The fat composition of farmed salmon changed to higher levels of omega-6. Most people consuming a regular Western diet have a ratio that is out of balance in favour of omega-6. The social challenge for Blue Impact, in which we succeeded, was finding ways to restore the balance and offer a rich source of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids without overfishing the oceans or compromising on the natural health benefits of salmon.

Economic Impact
Any industry needs to produce products that consumers want and are willing to pay for to be profitable and sustainable. Profitability of a sector will fund the necessary change and help to attract financial investments. The image of the aquaculture industry and salmon farming in particular are causing pressure on economic results. Although, in the past years, salmon prices have been rewarding, the underlying criticism of salmon farming practices are evident and pose serious economic challenges for the future. Doubling aquaculture production implies expansion of capacity: larger or new sites. The opposition and protein competition are, however, quite active and we have seen licences being suspended or even withdrawn in certain parts of the world.

The industry’s licence to operate salmon farms depends on sustainable development of the industry to be able to capture the enormous growth potential that lies ahead. Whether land-based or going offshore, access to financial solutions will be crucial to fund these developments and finance is tending more and more to projects that classify as sustainable or green.

Blue Impact
As sustainability leaders, BioMar strive for continued improvements to support sustainable aquaculture growth. We must ensure we are always on the front foot. That’s why, despite launching the first ever sustainable diet at this scale and scope, Blue Impact will continue to make improvements, drive sustainable practices, and transform aquaculture.