Blue Impact is for circular thinking farmers
Creating circular economies in which all ingredients are utilised to their maximum value is becoming an increasingly important aspect of sustainability. This is part of the reason why BioMar has set the goal for our feeds to be 50% circular and restorative by 2030. Important nutrients in aquafeed are becoming scarcer, which only increases the importance of utilising circular and restorative ingredients to support sustainable growth in aquaculture. Blue Impact aligns with BioMar’s goal to increase our feeds’ circular/restorative properties, launching with a dedicated parameter that will measure the feeds’ circular and restorative properties, which will continually improve as we progress through our Blue Journey.
What do we define as circular/restorative?
BioMar follows the European Union's Waste Framework Directive and has classified raw materials into the following categories: main products, coproducts, byproducts and waste products, with byproducts and waste products defined as circular raw materials. In a circular economy, resources are kept in use for as long as possible, extracting their maximum value. Products and materials are recovered and renewed, leveraging business models designed to support this regenerative activity. At launch, Blue Impact feeds will consist of at least 25% of ingredients we define as circular and restorative, utilising byproducts, waste products and those we define as restorative to continually increase the diet’s circular properties.
Over the years aquaculture has focused on decreasing its reliance on marine ingredients, transitioning to diets that are primarily made from plant-based materials. However, industrial agriculture cannot maintain its usefulness to society indefinitely with the current rates of ecological damage (i.e., deforestation) and resource use (i.e., freshwater). The key is to restore a balance between the societal benefits of agriculture with the societal benefits of healthy ecosystems. Restorative production is the first critical step to reverse the current trends. We define restorative ingredients as raw materials that significantly shift the balance between ecosystem impacts and human production systems towards net-positive environmental outcomes. An example of a restorative ingredient is the single cell protein produced from fermented forestry byproducts.
Decoupling our feed from human competition
The main benefit of increasing our use of circular/restorative ingredients is to decouple our feeds’ supply chains from environmental degradation and directly competing with food for human consumption. Achieving these goals is essential for supporting the sustainable growth of aquaculture across the globe. Targeting ingredients from lower trophic levels allows BioMar to go straight to the source of the nutrients required from our feeds without losing value at every trophic level or competing with human supply chains, creating a more efficient pathway to these nutrients. We can therefore maximise the nutritional value of these ingredients, while lowering the stress on ecosystems to create net-positive environmental outcomes.
An example of targeting lower trophic ingredients is the work BioMar has done with microalgae. Microalgae is the original source of omega-3 fatty acids in the ocean. Traditionally, microalgae are consumed by zooplankton, then fish, before being captured by a fishing vessel and transformed into fish oil, where aquaculture competes with other supply chains. By going straight to microalgae BioMar can substitute fish oil with an algal oil high in omega-3. Therefore, we are no longer competing for fish oil in the supply chain but using an ingredient that lowers stress on wild fish stocks. Such novel ingredients with sustainable profiles will be used in Blue Impact feeds, increasing the diets’ circular/restorative profiles.
Utilising waste streams to increase our feeds’ circular properties
Due to the finite and scarce supply of vital nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, aquafeed companies must identify new opportunities to increase the circular properties of their feeds. For BioMar, this means we must either identify waste streams for direct use (or minimally processed), or upgrade/upcycle waste streams to higher-value products. By using ingredients that originate from other waste streams, we are utilising nutrients that would otherwise go to waste, creating a circular economy where all nutrients are used and value maximised. Additionally, using products from waste streams increases the sustainability of both our feeds and the industry providing the waste streams.
A great example of raw materials originating from waste streams is feather meal. Feather meal is a byproduct from poultry production, where the feathers are ground up and turned into a high protein powder. According to FAO, approximately 24 billion chickens were produced in 2018. The average percentage of feather mass is 5%, so assuming each chicken weighed 2 kg, the amount of chicken feathers in 2018 can be estimated to be 2.4 million tonnes. Rather than go to waste, industries such as aquaculture can take advantage of these ingredients. By using feather meal as a protein source, we can replace higher risk ingredients such as fish meal and soy.
In sum, increasing the use of circular and restorative ingredients in our feeds will be essential for creating sustainable feed solutions going forward. To do this, BioMar must first define which ingredients we consider circular and restorative and identify opportunities to include them into our feeds. This means we must continue to look at waste streams and utilise ingredients from lower trophic levels to help us achieve our goal of decoupling our feeds’ supply chains from environmental degradation and directly competing with food for human consumption.
Blue Impact is for circular thinking farmers, who – like us – believe that increasing the use of circular and restorative ingredients can drive sustainable, industry-wide developments and transform aquaculture.