Skretting launches world-first diet to enhance both gill and gut integrity

Skretting has upgraded its pioneering SHIELD diet to offer twice the support to farmers producing gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata), one of the most commercially important fish species to be farmed in Europe. In 2017, Skretting became the first fish feed company in the world to launch a functional diet specifically supporting against intestinal challenges for Mediterranean species. Now launching in 2019, new SHIELD now also offers the same level of support for fish exposed to parasites targeting the gills.

“SHIELD helps maintain the structural integrity of the intestines and the gills. This is a very timely product for Mediterranean aquaculture and we are excited about the long-term benefits that it will bring for fish farmers throughout the Mediterranean region and beyond,” says Julio Docando-Valencia, Fish Health Diets Manager for Skretting South Europe.

Intestinal and gill parasite challenges present by far the most widespread health problems facing sea bream producers today. Parasites attack these organs; causing damage and creating an environment in which further challenges can thrive. While mortality resulting from such events doesn’t tend to be very high, the fish experience deteriorated growth performance and end-product quality, causing farmers serious economic losses. Damage caused can also provide gateways to secondary problems that can cause greater mortality.

Through its global focus on supporting aquaculture species’ health through proactive nutrition, Skretting has dedicated considerable resources towards researching and developing a diet aimed at supporting sea bream during periods of increased risk, which is predominantly during the warmer spring and summer months, but can also extend into autumn.
As with all of its functional feed solutions, Docando-Valencia advises that SHIELD should be included as part of a structured and holistic approach to performance and health management. "SHIELD works best alongside other support strategies such as disease monitoring, net management and best farming practices. Ideally, it should prepare the fish ahead of heightened risk – when fish farmers can expect to first see environmental and adverse health challenges, which is usually at 18 to 20°C."

Collaborative expertise

Consistent with the rest of the health feed portfolio developed by Skretting Aquaculture Research Centre (ARC), new SHIELD contains specifically selected functional ingredients that work in synergy to contribute to the ability of sea bream to cope with the onset of several different health challenges. What Skretting ARC has again evidenced is that specific combinations of these ingredients provide support to the fish that is greater than the sum of their individual benefits.

Carlos Zarza, Senior Researcher at Skretting ARC, explains that the diet has also benefited from Skretting’s participation in multiple R&D partnership programmes. These include the European Union's Horizon 2020 ParaFishControl project to address the challenges of disease prevention and management in aquaculture systems.

“New SHIELD was validated in a series of ground-breaking trials, incorporating systems that represented the actual parasitic natural model of infection and measured what happens with the fish and how they responded to the support that was provided.

“These collaborations were a crucial part of the development phase because these researchers already had considerable experience looking at these sorts of challenges which we could utilise and contribute to. It makes perfect sense that as well as making full use of our internal expertise, Skretting ARC should actively seek to work with the best, most knowledgeable experts in the field.

“The results were very strong and consistent: On one hand, we saw that the functional diet improved the performance of the fish in terms of growth and feed efficiency; and because we were also able to measure the damage, we were able to confirm that SHIELD supports against adverse intestinal and gill health challenges,” he says.

First to market

Very similar results and positive feedback have also come from a series of customer trials.

Micaela Bras, Head Pathologist in the Fish Health Department at Andromeda Iberica, says, “We have had a good experience using the SHIELD diet on our farm. It seems to be a good preventative tool for parasite control and has improved fish resistance to these threats. Being able to produce bigger, healthier fish is good for our business and for our customers.”

Skretting is the first fish feed company to offer such a solution to seabream producers.

“It fills a very important gap in the market. The name SHIELD has become synonymous with fish health and supporting the natural defences of key organs, while providing the platform for optimised growth rates,” says Docando.

He adds, “As has been the case with the development of all previous functional feed solutions, we fully expect that the innovative R&D that has gone into this diet will lead to the development of similar support for a variety of other species and farming systems that face environmental and adverse health challenges.” 

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