$5.2 Million Research Project to Develop Specialty King Salmon Feed

Nelson based farmer, New Zealand King Salmon is spearheading a research group to fully understand the specific dietary requirements of King salmon
February 24, 2015

The nutritional requirements of the King Salmon species Oncorhynchus tshawytscha (also known as Chinook) – farmed predominantly in New Zealand – differ considerably from the common Atlantic salmon, trout and other salmon species farmed elsewhere in the world. Currently global suppliers produce feed based on environmental and economic considerations for the latter species.

New Zealand King Salmon is the world’s biggest producer of farmed King salmon, supplying 55 per cent of New Zealand’s salmon and ssome 40 per cent of the world’s King salmon production. The company\'s chief operating officer Rubén Álvarez said the company is committed to best practice and the highest quality product and that drives the need to fully understand the species’ dietary requirements.

“I came to New Zealand with a background in farming other salmon and trout species around the world and was prepared to apply that knowledge to growing salmon here.

“However I immediately realised we were lacking detailed dietary information on King salmon. Although the unique qualities of the King salmon are an advantage for us in our sales and marketing activity, it also means that information based on the nutritional needs of the more common species is not always applicable and R&D for King salmon is not a broader industry priority.

“It was obvious that if we didn’t drive this research, it would not happen,” Mr Álvarez says.

A consortium comprising New Zealand King Salmon, Seafood Innovations Ltd (SIL), Nelson’s Cawthron Institute, the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) and Danish feed producer BioMar aims to develop a high-quality, species-specific feed that improves vastly on the generic products currently available.

Commercial interests are providing half the funding for the four-year project with SIL and a research partnership supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment are providing the balance.

SIL general manager Mike Mandeno says the project is predicted to deliver an important range of key benefits.

“While New Zealand salmon farming is already widely acknowledged as the world’s most sustainable, we would expect the research to deliver even greater advantages in this area. A King salmon-specific feed would also have commercial benefits for New Zealand producers in terms of exports, job creation and ultimately the profitability of the industry,” Mr Mandeno says.

Cawthron Institute is a private research organisation and chief executive Professor Charles Eason says the project represents a robust commercial/research partnership.

“We have put together a strong team including international experts from Europe and South America. Their skills combined with our own knowledge in fish nutrition, fish health and the development of specialist feeds will bring together the best scientific team to work alongside New Zealand King Salmon for the benefit of New Zealand,” Professor Eason says.

“It’s a fine example of how an independent research organization can bring together the best scientific team to work alongside industry for the benefit of New Zealand,” Professor Eason says.

The project is expected to generate at least one new science position at Cawthron in Nelson and several positions for PhD or tertiary level students which aligns well with NMIT’s aquaculture diploma.