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F3 launches Fish Oil Challenge

Friday, September 8, 2017

A new contest to innovate a fish oil alternative that doesn’t rely on wild-caught fish officially launched this week. The F3 Fish Oil Challenge will award a $100,000 prize to the company or team that makes and sells the most fish-free “fish oil” to aquaculture operations or feed manufacturers. The prize amount is expected to increase through additional crowdsource fundraising.

The University of Arizona, New England Aquarium, University of Massachusetts Boston, Synbiobeta, Anthropocene Institute and The World Bank are sponsoring the contest that aims to both support and streamline the aquaculture feed supply chain. The F3 (Future of Fish Feed) team is a collaboration of scientists, environmentalists and industry leaders.

“We are seeking innovators who do not accept business-as-usual and will apply their ingenuity to make aquaculture industry more feasible, and more environmentally responsible now and in the future,” said University of Arizona Professor Kevin Fitzsimmons, a judge of the Fish Oil Challenge and former president of the World Aquaculture Society. “Changing the way we grow farmed fish is vital to feed ourselves without further depleting the wild-fish populations on which aquaculture depends.”

Some of the innovations may be found in new collaborations between the biotechnology and seafood sectors to create a fish-free fish oil that provides essential nutrients for aquaculture and for people using fewer land and water resources.

“From its inception, biotechnology has been about finding solutions to societal challenges,” said Christopher Oakes, director of corporate development at SynBioBeta the activity hub for the synthetic biology industry. "Our hope is that we can apply engineering principles to biology and increase collaboration between these two industries to improve the sustainability of farm-raised seafood."

An optimal balance of key nutrients in aquaculture-raised fish feed is needed to ensure that the fish are healthy and highly nutritious for consumers. To help the contestants, the F3 team’s fish nutrition experts have used known fatty acid profiles of wild forage fish to develop target values that will need to be met to qualify as a viable fish oil replacement.  

“Our goal is to use technological innovation to overcome challenges in the aquaculture supply chain and change the way we feed farm-raised fish,” said Fitzsimmons. “The industry has made tremendous strides to vastly increase yields of aquaculture products with limited supplies of fish meal and fish oil. However, if we are to become even more sustainable and want to ensure a robust industry in the future, more innovation is needed to find cost-effective alternative ingredients.”

The first challenge by the F3 team, the Fish-Free Feed Challenge, was a game-changer in the fish feed industry by helping to promote the adoption of fish-free feed to improve the overall sustainability of the aquaculture industry. The challenge drew contestants from all over the world who have collectively sold over 100,000 metric tons of fish-free feed, saving over 100 million forage fish from being used as fish feed. This new challenge will help provide a key strategic ingredient that will enable aquaculture to expand more quickly, independent of wild-caught fish stocks, enhancing global food security.

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