Science & Innovation
The resources typically used in aquaculture production and research are finite, and their growing scarcity has vast implications for the wider world. Alltech Coppens has put systems in place to source sustainable materials, minimising our environmental impact now and into the future.
Sustainable feed index
The process of making global aquaculture more sustainable starts by looking at the raw materials we use for feed and fish production. The Alltech Coppens R&D and Procurement departments evaluate all raw materials used in our aquaculture products, ensuring they are sustainably sourced and responsibly and ultimately benefit farm performance and the future of our industry and planet. With data sourced from Global Feed Life Cycle Institute (GFLI) and BLONK databases, different feed is characterised according to its impact on different factors, such as climate change, acidification, etc. However, we also need to combine the data within this database and tailor it toward our own specific conditions. Assessing how much feed we produce, how much of each raw material or ingredient we use in each feed and the geographical location of our suppliers, we can evaluate the raw materials. We are determined to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and evaluate the origin of raw materials. In 2020, 80% of the raw materials that we sourced were produced within Europe. Of these, 30% came from Germany (where our factory stands) and 16% from the Netherlands (where we have our head office). We expect that the numbers of local supply will further increase in 2021.
Nowadays, fish feed quality is not only determined by parameters directly related to the fish (e.g., performance). There is also a focus on the effect of the feed on the planet. We conduct a lot of trials on alternative raw materials, like insect meal and single-cell proteins. The Alltech Coppens R&D and Procurement departments are constantly sourcing new alternative raw materials with a strong focus on lowering the impact the feed has on the environment.
Fish trimmings: A sustainable alternative
As the aquaculture industry is still growing, the environmental impacts of the aquafeed industry are expected to increase. Therefore, highlighting where these environmental impacts come from and which ingredients have the highest detrimental impacts on the environment can help us as an aquafeed company to reduce these effects and contribute to a Planet of Plenty™. Using ingredients of marine origin (for example, fishmeal and fish oil) is expected to decrease in the future because marine fish stocks cannot sustain higher fishing pressure. However, replacing fishmeal and fish oil with plant-based ingredients, such as soy protein concentrate and rapeseed oil, causes other environmental impacts, such as land-use change. Therefore, Alltech Coppens, besides focusing on alternative protein sources, focuses on using marine products that are sourced from trimmings, which are by-products (leftovers) from the preparation of the main product.
For finfish, this typically includes skins, heads and viscera. Upcycling trimmings to produce marine products also fits within the views of a circular food system, as waste is now recycled into valuable nutrients and is considered more sustainable than marine products sourced from forage fisheries. Alltech Coppens has already replaced 60% of our marine products with trimmings and will continue to replace even more in the coming year.
Sustainable water re-use
As the global population gets bigger, water resources around the world are going to get scarcer. With this in mind, we have worked hard to ensure that water used at the Alltech Coppens Aqua Centre is cleaned and re-used, promoting sustainability. Throughout the ACAC, we utilise recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), which are specifically designed to use freshwater supplies as economically and efficiently as possible. The water that passes through these systems is filtered multiple times. What emerges is a pristine supply that can then be reused throughout the system, significantly lessening our burden on global resources. Any wastewater that does come from the ACAC is also purified using a helophyte filter. This elongated pond uses plants to slowly clean the water, making it suitable to return to nature. We work closely with local authorities to ensure this water is regularly quality checked and safe. With this filtering method, there is no energy required to clean the water and the water does not have to be transported.
Creating post-trial sustainable purposes for fish and feed
At the Alltech Coppens Aqua Centre, we have made it our duty to ensure that nothing goes to waste. Because of this, we have implemented sustainable solutions for what happens to our fish and feed after research trials have been completed. We run growth trials to compare the performance of Alltech Coppens with competitor feed. After the experiment is over, this feed cannot be marketed, sold or thrown away. Instead, the ACAC raises carp on a small scale in outdoor ponds, feeding them the remaining feed. This puts it to good use, resulting in no waste from our trials. Furthermore, the fish used in our trials are unfit for human use but come in useful elsewhere. We sell the fish to local zoos that feed them to birds of prey and penguins. In this way, we have found a sustainable purpose for the fish.