Salmon farming is one of the most significant food production success stories of modern times. The establishment of commercial salmon aquaculture didn’t begin until the 1970s, but just some 40 years later the global harvest now exceeds 2 million tonnes. Despite its considerable achievements, the industry is not without its challenges, not least meeting the unprecedented demand for the product from a global population expected to quickly reach 9 billion people. To ensure it can continue to expand sustainably, it has become increasingly apparent that greater collaborative relationships must be established across the value chain, making full use of its inherent knowledge and expertise to develop tangible industry-wide solutions.
An important way in which Skretting is helping advance the salmon sector is through its membership of the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI). In partnership, GSI salmon farmers and feed companies have committed to working precompetitively together to accelerate progress towards ever increasing standards of sustainability for the farmed salmon industry, and to driving progressive innovation in the feed sector.
The central mission of the GSI is in many ways the same imperative for everyone, everywhere and in every walk of life for the next 20 years – producing healthy protein at a lower per unit environmental cost in order to feed the fast-growing global population, explains Avrim Lazar of the GSI.
As a feed producer, Skretting is ideally placed to make an invaluable contribution to this overriding objective."Because salmon grows from feed, so the eco-efficiency with which feed is produced has a huge impact on the eco-efficiency of the way salmon is produced. Therefore, when Skretting improves the formula so that the feed conversion ratio is improved, that has an impact on the sustainability of the salmon and has an impact on our ability to feed the planet responsibly, at the lowest environmental cost. Similarly, when Skretting changes the formula so that we are less reliant on pelagic fisheries, the stresses on an ecological layer in the ocean is reduced, which again improves the ecological footprint and eco-efficiency of salmon production. Efficiency is also improved when Skretting helps producers with the most efficient possible deployment of the feed, and when it comes up with functional feeds – for example, discouraging lice or increasing salmon's natural resilience to challenges," says Lazar.
As well as the imperative requirements to progress environmental improvement and fulfil the need to feed the planet at the lowest possible environmental cost, it is also a core ideal of GSI that any challenges in sustainability will not be due to a lack of moral fibre, but are instead due to the need to solve technical issues.
"GSI is built on the model of sharing and providing the environment for different members to share in the development of solutions," says Lazar. "That is also why we are very grateful that Skretting, the other feed businesses and the farming companies have joined us – because quite often, the easiest way to find a technical solution and accelerate progress is by people from different perspectives working on the problem together. The availability of novel oils in the feed industry has improved significantly because of this strategy, and if it weren't for the cooperation of Skretting we would never have had created that stimulation in the marketplace. It's a classic example of an environmental stress being solved through innovation."
Another activity relates to the long-term concern about by-products being insufficiently retrieved from the fish processing sector, because from an environmental perspective, it is beneficial that these materials are used within feeds wherever possible. "We are in no doubt that this will become a normal part of the feed stream. It has always been there, but huge amounts of it are still being wasted. One of our basic principles is zero waste so looking ahead, this will be an important area for us," says Lazar.
Alongside continued work with novel oils and fully utilising by-products, GSI and Skretting will also further their work on certification standards and establishing a balance between achievability and rigour.
"GSI and Skretting have always been strong believers that standards should set very high bars and at the same time they should invite people to reach those bars. If the bars are too high or unattainable, you don't necessarily get any environmental improvement. Skretting has shown a lot of leadership in trying to find ways to sustain the height of the bar while creating a pathway to it. That work will progress further in 2017," says Lazar.