On today’s episode, I’m tackling F is for Farmed Fish and Faux Fish.
Did you know by 2050 with our growing global population, we will need seven percent more protein to feed the world than we have today?
Some of that protein will be farmed fish and some will be fake fish.
Welcome to the F is for Farmed Fish part of the program. Today we’ll explore what farmed fish or aquaculture is, what types of farming are practiced, best edible seafood species to farm, some aquaculture challenges, and lastly success stories in aquaculture around the world.
What is aquaculture?
Aquaculture, or farmed fish, is the rearing and harvesting of fish in water environments for human consumption.
Now anyone who knows me knows I believe that aquaculture will help feed our growing global population, reduce the stresses on wild fish populations while restoring habitats, and will strengthen our food security too. Aquaculture, when done right provides an energy-efficient, hi-protein, low-fat resource.
There are numerous methods of fish farming or aquaculture
- Recirculating aquaculture systems known as RAS in the industry
- Open ocean pens
- Sea cages
- Suspension ropes
- Racks and lines (oysters, scallops, mussels, algae)
- Ponds (shrimp, tilapia, mullet and bream)
- Surface lines
- Sea ranching (scallops and cucumbers)
Some farming methods are better than others. But because the list is long and time is limited, if you would like to know more about a specific farming method, shoot me an email. But know this, 95 percent of aquaculture is done in ponds. In the US, 85 percent of aquaculture is done in a RAS.
Of the hundreds of edible seafood’s, which are the best to farm?
- Shellfish, clams, oysters, mussels (all filter feeders leaving the water in better shape than before)
- Kelp (seaweed)
- Crustaceans (shrimp—the world’s most beloved seafood)
Did you know that 50 percent of all fish consumed is farmed? And friends, that number is only going to rise.
And since 50 percent of all fish is farmed and our global population is growing, the need for successful aquaculture is literally a matter of life and death.
Now aquaculture has been around for over 4000 years, first developed in China. In the US, the aquaculture industry blossomed in the 1970s. But not without its challenges.
So what are the challenges of farmed fish?
One of the biggest challenges with aquaculture is fish feed. Both the ingredient list and the FIFO, or the fish in fish our ratio.
Fish need protein. And lots of it. Much of that feed ingredient comes from wild fisheries in the form of fish oil and fishmeal and from pelagic species like anchovies and sardines.
Wild fisheries that we are overfishing.
So here’s a little something to chew on before I dive into the challenges of farmed fish feed.
We already know that 90 percent of the large fisheries, shark, whales, Pacific Blue Fin tuna have collapsed. Wild Atlantic salmon and New England cod are two prime examples of a species that were fished to near extinction. In the last fifty years, fifty-one marine species are extinct due to overfishing.
Overfishing is at a crisis level.
We’re depleting wild fish species to feed farmed fish!
Yeah. That’s crazy, right?
Fortunately, that’s changing for the better. We’ll look at some solutions in a few minutes.
But let’s dig in a little more about the feed.
Fish are the most efficient converters of food to flesh. Or fish in fish out called FIFO in the industry. Most farmed fish are in the FIFO range of 3:1 to 1:1, the latter being the most efficient end of the scale—one pound of feed in equals one pound of fish out.
So how does that compare to other farmed protein industries? Called Feed Conversion Ratio in other industries, beef is 9:1, pork 6:1, chicken, 2:1, and crickets, or insects are 1.5:1.
What are some other challenges with aquaculture?
Antibiotics are used to eliminate diseases. But that creates a problem with superbugs. There’s also waste to dispose of, escapement in the case of ocean-farmed fish. There are production costs and pollution in the form of carbon emissions in land-based farmed systems. Human slavery is still a problem in the farmed fish industry in Thailand for instance.
So where’s the good news?
Technology and innovation have improved the farmed fish business and that will only continue to improve.
For the last several years, scientists, chemists, biologists, chefs, engineers, food disruptors and farmers are working to change the fish feed landscape and the aquaculture industry.
Innovation will enable fish feed to be made from microbes, algae, yeast, soy, seaweeds, and insects. There is already a vegan fish feed on the market. Technology will make farming operations more efficient and safer.
To date, the most efficient and productive success story takes place in Southern Spain on an island in the river, ten miles inland from the ocean. La Veta La Palma is a premier example of sustainable aquaculture in a natural setting. This 28,000-acre farm developed an artificial wetland habitat by converting ponds and restructuring the water flow. They raise sea bass, bream, mullet and shrimp. They farm rice and developed dry crops. The farm is so productive it attracts over 200 species of migratory birds many of which are endangered making this a natural paradise. There are no antibiotics used or GMO’s.
- Australis Barramundi (aka seabass) in Massachusetts
- TwoXSea farms trout in California using vegan feed
- Kampachi Farms yellowtail, a sashimi grade fish in open pens in Hawaii
- Verlasso Salmon farms Atlantic salmon in Chile using a yeast compound feed that mimics Omega 3s eliminating the need for wild fish oils and byproduct
- Langsand Lax in Denmark is the largest land-based salmon farm in the world. They use a highly efficient recirculation system. Earlier this month, they got full approval to build a land-based salmon facility in Florida, the first of its kind in the US
- Blue Ridge Aquaculture in Virginia is the largest land-based tilapia farm in the world using RSA, fresh never frozen, no antibiotics
- Food Chain in Lexington, KY is an educational facility that farms tilapia and greens in a hydroponics system
There are fish farms in high rise buildings in Hong Kong and on a Wisconsin dairy farm. There are fish farms in wastewater treatment facilities in Kentucky. There is no shortage of opportunities to farm fish wherever you live.
The future of farmed fish and land-based fish farms will increase in our future. And while many operations are successful, plenty are not. And not all land-based farms are the superstar darlings of sustainable fisheries just yet. The cost to operate these facilities can be three times that of an ocean pen farming operation because of licenses, equipment and facilitates. Other challenges are maintaining water temperatures, oxygen levels, PH levels, and high carbon outputs.
So why continue to farm fish?
Fewer fish die and fish grow faster
There is little need for antibiotics (b/c everything is controlled).
Fish waste can be recycled for compost to grow vegs or produce electricity.
Plus, it’s good business.
Remember, wild fisheries will be depleted if we don’t supplement fish stocks with aquaculture.
Is farmed fish safe to eat?
Yes and no. In the US, we have strict environmental and food safety regulations, so if you live in the US, you will support the American farmers and the economy.
Think about this. In the US, nearly 90 percent of our seafood is imported. Only 2.5 to 3 percent of that seafood is inspected at the docks. Some countries do not practice good food safety laws.
If you love fish like I do, ask questions, like where does my fish come from? Read the package labels at the market. Follow trusted recommendation guides like Seafood Watch and Environmental Defense Fund.
Alright, that’s it for farmed fish.
F is for Faux Fish
It’s no secret that there are seven billion people living on thirty percent of the earth’s surface. And that growth is expected to continue to nine billion by 2050, eleven billion by the end of this century. Seems like a long way off, but to put it into perspective, think about yourselves for a few seconds. Where will you be in 2050? What about their kids, your grandchildren? What kind of world will they be living in? What will they be eating?
So with all this talk of protein, just how much protein do we really need in our daily diets?
According to the US Dept of Agriculture, an average 130-pound female needs forty-seven grams of protein per day. For a 170-pound male, sixty-two grams is recommended.
As I mentioned earlier, an increasing population needs more protein and one of those highly sought after proteins is fish.
Fish farming is not the only solution to solve our growing global protein needs and save our wild fish populations.
Enter Faux Fish
That’s right, plant-based fish products.
Venture capitalists have a term for the people and companies developing faux fish. They’re called Food Industry Disruptors—or those foods that replace conventional animal agriculture.
So how does that work?
Well the most important criteria for any good food is texture and taste, right?
Well, it’s not rocket science. But it is chemistry. And technology using mass spectrometry and texture sensors. It’s innovation. It’s students, nutritionists, biochemists, engineers, and chefs.
Currently, there are several plant-based seafood products being tested on the market and more products being developed in the lab.
Plant-based products are made from quinoa, seitan, mushrooms, yellow pea proteins, seaweed, nuts and high-quality soy.
- New Wave Foods makes PopShrimp shrimp made from algae
- Tomato Sushi offers sushi made from tomatoes that looks like tuna
- There is Tofuna Fysh which makes fysh oil and fysh sauce.
- Sophie’s Kitchen in California makes a line of shelf-stable, refrigerated and frozen vegan seafood items made from konjac, a mineral-rich plant that has almost zero calories and is high in dietary fiber. They offer Smoked Salmon, scallops, mac n cheese, jambalaya, and its most popular retail item is The Vegan Toona. Coming soon Glazed Salmon bacon!
- Veggie World in the UK makes its award-winning vegan prawns.
- Gardein in the US makes fishless filets and crabless cakes.
While faux fish made still be in its infancy, it is a growing industry. The Plant-based food industry contributes $13.7 billion dollars to the US economy alone. Jobs generated in the industry offer an annual income of $59,400. But that figure includes other plant-based products in the meat, chicken and dairy categories.
So I should add that I haven’t tried any of these products nor am I doing a product endorsement. Not that I don’t want to. I am eager to try any faux fish product, so if you’re a food disruptor and you would like to connect and collaborate, please send me a message. For the record, I did try cricket bars for the first time and found them to be earthy, chewy, nutty and sweet. I am game!
There is no better time in our history to be a sustainable food disruptor whether you want to farm fish, develop faux fish or just enjoy delicious food that is good for you and the oceans.