Bridging the raw material gap

As the global population continues to grow, there is increasing focus on aquaculture to provide the protein to feed the world. At Skretting, as one of the largest aquaculture feed suppliers in the world, we see that we have an essential role to play. A 30 million tonne projected increase in aquaculture production means there will be a need for an additional 45 million tonnes of raw materials. So where will they come from? In this series, we deepen on some of our ongoing activities in this arena, exploring novel ingredients and some of our most important partnerships.

Part I: We need more food, but where is it going to come from?

Like water and air, food is essential to life, but our current food resources are being stretched to their limits. It’s estimated that we are already consuming the equivalent of 1.7 planet Earth’s worth of natural resources in order to produce food. This is happening at the same time that one in nine people in the world are suffering from hunger and 13% of developing region populations are undernourished.
As a global society, we are around 7.5 billion people heading towards 9.5 billion by 2050. Not only does this present the problem of an additional 2 billion mouths to feed, human diets are also increasingly shifting in line with growing prosperity. Consequently, the forecast that current global agriculture production needs to almost double by the midway point of this century makes long-term food and nutrient security one of the most pressing challenges that we face today.

As the world’s most efficient protein generator, aquaculture is one of the most important long-term growth areas for food production. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), it continues to grow faster than any other major food sector and by 2030 is expected to provide 60% of the fish available for human consumption. Global output is forecast to reach 109 million tonnes by this date, representing a rise of 37% compared to current levels (Source: ‘The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture’, FAO 2018).

We also know it’s no
longer sustainable
to chop down more
forests, extract more
water from depleting
water reserves, or
allow our fossil fuel
emissions to rise any
further in order to
produce more food

But while aquaculture has the potential to bridge the gap between the supply and rising seafood demand, and to also help achieve economic, social and environmental goals, thus contributing to FAO’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it’s not without its own specific dilemmas. With regards to its long-term growth, the resources that it consumes present its biggest potential limiting factor. Indeed, with capture fisheries only able to sustainably supply finite quantities of traditional marine ingredients, aquaculture faces the very real risk of a feed raw material gap.
So whilst these megatrends offer considerable opportunities for farming on land and in the water, in recognising that we are reaching ecological limits, we also know it’s no longer sustainable to chop down more forests, extract more water from depleting water reserves, or allow our fossil fuel emissions to rise any further in order to produce more food. Our approach to food production has to change. We have to think about what we can do to safeguard the natural resources that we have, and if possible, alleviate pressures that have already been exerted on them.

Essentially, our future food needs must be met in the most responsible, efficient and safe ways possible, and all commercial food production sectors have an obligation to strike this balance.Thankfully, there are ways for us to do this. Breakthrough solutions are at hand. New thinking, new innovations, new technologies and new raw material ingredients are coming to the fore that will enable us to collectively feed the future.

Thank you for reading Part I in our series about the ways in which we will bridge the impending raw material gap for aquaculture feed production.

Next reads

Responsible consumption and production

Our production plants consume natural resources including water and non-renewable fuels. We also produce some undesirable wastes and emissions. To ensure our operations remain sustainable we have implemented a rigorous system of data collection and reporting for 4 environmental KPIs – energy, GHG, water and waste. This data is used to monitor the performance of our operating sites to identify opportunities for sustainable production and consumption. 


UN SDG 14: 
Life below water

As the population grows, so does the demand for seafood. Per capita consumption has doubled  from the 1960s until now. This rapid expansion could increase pressure on wild fish resources,  which have been a major source of vital nutrients in aquafeeds. After years of research at Skretting ARC, we are now able to produce fish meal-free diets. 

Life on land

The production of feed ingredients has significant impacts to life on land. This includes GHGs, biodiversity losses and nutrient enrichment that arise from land clearing, fuels, pesticides and synthetic fertilisers. We are dedicated to reducing these impacts by working with our suppliers. Our primary tool to do this is our Supplier Code of Conduct which outlines what we require of our suppliers in regards sustainability. 

Partnerships for the goals

Cooperation between value chain partners (business, government, science and NGOs) is a prerequisite to successfully addressing the sustainability challenges of our industry. Nutreco participates in various sustainable partnerships such as the Round Table on Responsible Soy, the ProTerra Network, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council and the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Responsible Supply Standard.