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New feeds and feeding technologies in aquaculture

08 July 2021


An advanced course for professionals on “New Feeds and Feeding Technologies in Aquaculture” was organized online from 14 to 23 June 2021 by CIHEAM Zaragoza and the EU H2020 funded project MedAID (Mediterranean Aquaculture Integrated Development. Grant agreement No 727315), with the collaboration of the EU H2020 projects PerformFISH (Integrating Innovative Approaches for Competitive and Sustainable Performance across the Mediterranean Aquaculture Value Chain) and NewTechAqua (New technologies Tools and Strategies for a Sustainable, Resilient and Innovative European Aquaculture).


The 166 applications received from 36 different countries of Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Asia are proof of the great interest in the subject matter of this course. The course was finally attended by a total of 49 professionals from 19 countries (Algeria, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Ecuador, Egypt, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Kingdom) from universities and R&D institutions as well as from aquaculture firms and the aqua feed industry.

During 8 online streaming sessions, 13 experts from the most renowned organizations and institutions delivered a programme of lectures, applied formulation exercises, group work and discussions on the topic to give an overview of existing and up-coming feed ingredients, what factors should affect the choices of feed and how feeding strategies and technologies are improving. Lecturers came from Univ. Bologna. IRTA, Bluegrove, NOFIMA AS, Seafoodmatter, Univ. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Dibaq Group and HCMR.

Topics covered during the course included sessions on: i) how to select the best feed for the fish farm, ii) how to evaluate a feed, iii) how to use the feed, iv) customers’ requirements and aquaculture feed legislation, v) feed trials, and vi) conclusions and recommendations from the MedAID project on improving zootechnical performance.

As regards the session on how to select the best feed for the farm, A. Bonaldo from Univ. Bologna gave three presentations to introduce participants to the different factors to be considered in fish feeding (nutritional requirements of the different species, production systems - intensive, RAS, extensive – and environmental conditions, including fish density). There were questions from participants related to the use of RAS and how to control water quality.

As regards the session on how to evaluate a feed, B. Hatlen from Nofima, gave an overview of protein raw materials, and their amino acid profile and new and potential sources of proteins, including micro and macroalgae, animal by-products, and industrial by-products. He also made a presentation about the use of carbohydrates and energy in aquafeeds and the use of starch as a binder, and a third presentation on starch and energy, focusing on the effects of protein substitution and increase in carbohydrates and problems related with hepatic size and composition. M. Carvalho (Univ. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria), gave a lecture about the importance of lipids in the diets and especially the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA and the balance between them. A large part of the presentation was also related to the new and potential sources of lipids (microalgae, krill, genetically modified plants) and their use in Europe. E. Gisbert (IRTA) spoke about the use of additives (prebiotics, probiotics, beta glucans, etc.) as immune-modulators, microbiome enhancers, etc. T.A. Samuelsen (Nofima) addressed feed technology and the different factors (temperature, humidity) needed for a good manufacture of pellets depending on required characteristics (size, floatability, etc,).

Finally, the practical group work on how ingredients affect feed formulation was organized by Nofima (T.A. Samuelsen, M. Moren). The participants were divided into 6 groups and asked to work with a pre-designed excel file to formulate 3 types of feed: (1) optimum feed in terms of nutritional composition; (2) feed covering the minimum requirement of nutrients and at a low price and; (3) a highly sustainable feed considering the CO2 footprint. The groups presented the results on the last day of the course.

The session on how to use the feed consisted of four lectures. L. Parma from Univ. Bologna presented the factors involved in fish feeding including environmental factors, fish physiology, pellet composition, attractiveness and size, etc. He presented the results of the trials carried out in the MedAid project (fish density, feeding frequency, changes in temperature and feeding) and the factors affecting feed intake such as chronic stress. Thereafter, N. Papandroulakis (HCMR) gave a very interesting lecture on feeding methods and technology for sea cages and the parameters to be considered. He also showed several systems used in sea cages for automatic feeding and for estimating the biomass of the fish in sea cages.

E. Meseguer from Dibaq, gave a detailed, practical lecture about how to programme feeding in sea cages or tanks (any type of aquaculture facility) depending on the species, maturation, growth during the year, number of cages or tanks, farming conditions and selection of number and quality of aquafeeds (summer and winter), frequency of feeding (depending on the size of the fish, farm location, environmental conditions), everything depending on the market plan of the fish farm. He had active interaction with participants giving information about feeding indicators, and practical details in terms of i.e. number of pellets/kg feed depending on the size. Finally, a presentation about the application of artificial intelligence in aquaculture feeding was made by O. Fretheim (Bluegrove, Norway) who provided information about the new software CageEye for measuring fish behaviour and distribution in sea cages and the reaction of stock during feeding, as well as water temperature, light penetration and other environmental conditions in the sea cages. The systems use that information to adjust the feeding depending on the feeding behaviour of the fish. The session finished with an open debate on the use of new technologies in different areas of Europe and the Mediterranean.

In the session on customer requirements and challenges, M. Hidalgo (Seafoodmatter) started with a presentation regarding the different certifications, and certification companies, related to feed ingredients, fisheries, fisheries improvement projects, alternative feed ingredients, etc., including working conditions (fisheries, companies, retailers, etc.) and organic production. A great deal of information was provided about the rules and organisms in charge of these certifications leading to a dynamic exchange of ideas and information with the participants. This was followed by a comprehensive, updated review of the legal framework by A. Tiana from Dibaq who spoke about how it affected the use of ingredients and feed formulation, sales and the use of GMOs in the production of aquafeeds. Tiana pointed out some important legal differences between countries, and gave detailed information about the list of ingredients and additives (antioxidants, colour additives, aromas, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, probiotics, etc.) permitted in feed production and what must be added on the label of the product. The session ended with an open debate based mainly on the EU regulation on ingredients or sustainability, the use of PAPs in feeds, fish imports from countries not following EU regulations, etc.

The session on feed trials aimed to help participants in designing feeding trials to better adapt feeds and feeding to their farm conditions and production systems. It started with a review presentation from A. Estevez (IRTA) on benchmarking and field trials, where different real cases, including the case study of the MedAID project trial on seabream, were presented. Thereafter, a practical group work was organized for the design of three trial cases: a) to assess the effects of 3 commercial feeds on the final quality of the fish in seabream ongrowing from 200 gr to 400 gr; b) to assess 5 different commercial feeds designed to improve growth and feed efficiency in rainbow trout or salmon juveniles; and c) to assess the use of a new ingredient (different inclusion levels of insect meal) in tilapia (100 g initial weight). The session ended with the presentation and discussion of results of the groups, and a presentation from M. Moren (Nofima) providing sound recommendations on how to design and perform a good feed trial.

The course ended with a presentation from A. Estevez of the main conclusions and recommendations from MedAID project on improving zootechnical performance (Work Package 2), where participants were also consulted and asked to give their feedback.