Algae may be the answer for farmed salmon

New research from Norway suggests heterotrophic algae might be the solution for more sustainable, omega-3 rich farmed salmon.

A special type of algae that grows in the dark may be the answer to more sustainably farmed, omega-3-rich salmon. Experiments at the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (NoFima) find the single-celled stuff promising.

Today, salmon farmers give their fish feed containing fish oil to replace the oil they’d normally get from eating little fish like anchovies and sardines as they cruise the ocean. But that method’s not sustainable. The fish industry has been hungry for a different way, a new source of massive quantities of omega-3s. The new research from NoFima suggests heterotrophic algae may be just what they’re looking for. And, the fish think it’s delish.

Unlike phototrophic algae, which grow using light and carbon dioxide, heterotrophic algae can be produced in far larger quantities, way more efficiently, using oxygen and a source of carbon, like plant byproducts.

"We need further sources of omega-3, and heterotrophic algae are one of very few real possibilities at the moment. The algae meal that we have tested contains nutrients that salmon need. We have managed to release and preserve the important nutrients through the process of manufacturing the feed, and this is a necessary condition for the use of this ingredient," says scientist Katerina Kousoulaki, who works at the food research institute Nofima in a release from the Institute.

Alltech, one of the world’s largest animal nutrition companies, commissioned NoFima to study whether the algae feed affected the salmon’s health, performance and nutrition. Their research found it was just as good as fish feed made with fish oil. Just another example of how algae might save the world.

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