Navigating the complexity: Challenges and solutions in implementing sustainable raw materials in commercial aquafeeds

The global aquafeed industry has undergone a significant transformation over the past two decades, shifting from marine-based ingredients to plant-based raw materials. This transition has linked aquafeed production more closely with the environmental and social impacts of agriculture. Sustainable raw material sourcing is critical, given that aquafeed production accounts for up to 80% of the scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions in salmon farming. This presentation, led by Kyla Zatti, explores the challenges and solutions in implementing sustainable raw materials in commercial aquafeeds, emphasizing the importance of life cycle assessment (LCA) and early stakeholder collaboration.


To assess the environmental impacts of raw materials used in aquafeeds, this paper employs environmental footprinting techniques, including Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Product Environmental Footprints (PEF), carbon footprint analysis, Forage-Fish Dependency Ratio (FFDR), and Fish-In Fish-Out (FIFO) metrics. These methodologies provide critical indicators for evaluating the sustainability of raw materials. However, this review acknowledges the limitations of these tools and the necessity of incorporating biodiversity indicators to capture impacts not covered by LCA. 


Environmental Impact Assessment 

The conclusion highlights the importance of accurate, high-quality data for decision-making and emphasizes the need for standardized methodologies to ensure holistic sustainability assessments. Incorporating supply chain biodiversity indicators is essential for a comprehensive understanding of environmental impacts. 

Raw Material Innovation 

Novel ingredients such as insect meal, single-cell proteins, low-impact agricultural crops, and by-products from the food processing industry area promising alternatives to traditional marine-based ingredients.

These novel ingredients can significantly reduce the environmental footprint of aquafeeds without compromising nutritional quality, however each of them is at different stages of being completely “sustainable” as this takes time as a raw material evolves. The review underscores the importance of early engagement and education of customers and consumers to increase the success rates of commercializing these new raw materials. 

Economic and Practical Considerations 

The ebb and flow of raw material prices and availability create opportunities for innovation in the aquafeed industry. The review highlights that raw material suppliers need to provide LCA data that accounts for future commercial scale-up, rather than pilot-scale figures, and to ensure scalability and consistency. Additionally, the review stresses the need for collaborative efforts among researchers, policymakers, producers, retailers, and consumers to overcome the challenges of implementing sustainable raw materials. 

Raw material innovation process.

The findings emphasize the complexity of shifting to sustainable raw materials in aquafeeds. Key challenges include improving data and sustainability metrics, standardizing assessment methodologies, navigating diverse stakeholder interests, and addressing barriers across the value chain. The study advocates for a holistic view of sustainability, identifying critical areas of importance to ensure that aquaculture feeds have the lowest possible environmental footprint while maintaining food safety and nutritional quality. 

Implementing sustainable (long-lasting, low impact) raw materials in commercial aquafeeds requires improving environmental impact assessments, developing innovative raw materials, and fostering collaboration across the value chain.

By taking a holistic approach to sustainability and focusing on critical impact areas, the aquafeed industry can create feeds that are both environmentally friendly and nutritionally adequate for future generations. 

This research underscores the importance of comprehensive sustainability assessments and collaborative efforts in achieving sustainable aquafeed production. By transitioning to circular and restorative practices, such as valorizing waste streams and utilizing renewable energy, the aquafeed industry can significantly reduce its environmental footprint. The successful implementation of sustainable raw materials will not only benefit the environment but also ensure the production of safe and nutritious food for future generations.