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Promising alternative

Memorial-partnered research leads to approval for camelina oil fish feed

Research

By Memorial University

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has approved the use of mechanically-extracted camelina oil as a feed ingredient for farmed salmon and trout.

The decision follows a recently completed large-scale study of camelina oil managed by Genome Atlantic. Dr. Chris Parrish, Department of Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science, was one of the study’s principal researchers.

Camelina sativa, or false flax, is a hardy oilseed plant that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and antioxidants. This super-nutritious plant is used as a vegetable oil for human consumption and as an ingredient or supplement in some animal feeds.

Fish feed manufacturers have also explored the use of crop-based oilseeds like camelina as viable and cost-efficient substitutes for wild-sourced fish oils and proteins currently used in fish feeds.

Compelling evidence

The study, which was supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)’s Atlantic Innovation Fund, found camelina to be an excellent match to the fatty acid composition required in the diets of farmed fish. Backed by this compelling evidence, Genome Atlantic applied to the CFIA for approval of camelina oil for use in fish feeds.

“This kind of work is at the heart of positioning Canada as a world-leading innovation economy.” — Navdeep Bains

“Genome Atlantic and its partners have transformed a tiny seed into a big opportunity, creating an innovative, alternative solution with long-term benefits to industry,” said Navdeep Bains, minister, Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and minister responsible for ACOA.

“This kind of work is at the heart of positioning Canada as a world-leading innovation economy. The Government of Canada will continue to focus on skilled, talented and creative people and projects such as this, that create jobs and grow the middle class.”

Particularly promising

Dr. Parrish says camelina oil has characteristics which make it a particularly promising alternative in fish diets.

Dr. Chris Parrish
Dr. Chris Parrish
Photo: Chris Hammond

“Among the oils that can be used to replace fish oil in aquafeeds, camelina is one of the few with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids,” he said.

“While these omega-3 fatty acids are different to those present in fish oils, they enhance the ability of fish to synthesize the healthful long-chain, omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for their optimal growth. This, in turn, ensures a healthful fillet for human consumers.”

Viable alternative

Another of the study’s principal researchers, Dr. Claude Caldwell of Dalhousie University, explains that the scientists found camelina oil to be sufficiently nutritious to replace all the fish oil in feeds, as well as some of the ground fish meal.

“The use of wild-sourced fish to feed the farmed fish is not sustainable either ecologically or economically. Camelina could be a viable alternative,” he said.

Considering that aquaculture companies spend 50-70 per cent of their budgets on feed, finding a high-quality, lower cost source of oil could mean significant savings.

While the CFIA’s recent approval only covers camelina oil, Dr. Caldwell and his Dalhousie team are currently conducting feeding trials for the CFIA on camelina meal.

“Camelina meal can’t entirely replace fish meal used in fish feeds, but it could replace some of that meal,” he said.

Tangible benefits

Camelina is grown in many parts of the world, including North America.

Dr. Caldwell suggests camelina could be a good rotation crop for potatoes, making it a potentially viable option for farmers in Maritime Canada.

“Investments in industry-led R&D in Atlantic Canada lead to tangible benefits.” — Steve Armstrong

“There are about 200,000 acres of potatoes planted in this region. Camelina could be a successful rotation crop that could open new markets for farmers while making the aquaculture industry healthier and more sustainable,” he said.

“Investments in industry-led R&D in Atlantic Canada lead to tangible benefits,” said Steve Armstrong, president and CEO, Genome Atlantic.

“In this instance, the generous support of ACOA and other collaborators on the Camelina Project has led to opening up a potential new market for our regional farmers and a sustainable alternative feed ingredient for our aquaculture producers.”

The Camelina Project also received support from the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the University of Saskatchewan, Memorial University, Dalhousie University, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Minas Seeds, Cooke Aquaculture, and Genome Prairie.


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