Farming marine ingredients using agricultural by-products, to feed farmed fish and animals? That’s the vision of Aquanzo, the Scottish start-up focusing on farming artemia, the tiny but protein-rich brine shrimp.
Led by CEO Dr Remi Gratacap, Aquanzo is currently based at facilities at Heriot Watt University’s Lyell Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The start-up has recently secured funding to investigate the feasibility of farming artemia to be used as an alternative circular-produced marine protein for young chickens.
Funded by Innovate UK in collaboration with Agri-EPI Centre and SRUC, the two year project will explore the use of different agricultural by-products to produce artemia, in turn investigating the nutritional benefits as a broiler chick starter feed on gut health, lifetime growth and performance.
Marine ingredients for feed are a limited resource – why not farm them?
“We’re taking a marine ingredient and instead of harvesting it from the ocean, potentially harming the ocean or putting more pressure on the ecosystem and biodiversity, we are developing farming technologies to produce it on land,” Gratacap told WeAreAquaculture.
“When we ran out of wild salmon or sea bass, we started farming them. We are now in the same situation with marine ingredients for fish meal, where we have a very limited resource, but still we need more.”
Although some alternatives are being developed in the form of single-cell protein or insect meal, Gratacap stresses that these remain just that – alternative.
“They’re not marine ingredients,” he says. “So we wondered, what if we could make more marine ingredients? And then that question became how do we do it? First, we considered krill, but then we realised that artemia is even better than krill for pioneering this farmed marine ingredient sector.”
Farmed artemia can help to secure the UK aquaculture supply chain
Gratacap says the project addresses multiple aspects of marine ingredient production and potential uses for artemia in particular, but one of the key focus areas for Aquanzo is securing the supply chain.
Earlier this summer, Peru’s cancellation of its anchovy season was a dramatic reminder of how vulnerable that supply chain is, Gratacap notes. Meanwhile, within the UK, post-Brexit import restrictions add an extra layer of uncertainty and cost for British aquaculture producers using raw ingredients for their feed.
“If we can farm marine ingredients on land in the UK using agricultural byproducts from the UK, we don’t have this problem anymore. It strengthens the supply chain, and it’s as British as you can make it,” Gratacap says.