The study will consist of trials to test the new feed, which includes oils pressed from the genetically modified oilseed crop plant Camelina. The modified plant has high-levels of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and if successful, the study can help return levels of omega-3 fatty acids in farmed fish to the levels of a decade ago.
The research is jointly led by fish nutritionist Professor Douglas Tocher, of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, and plant scientist Professor Johnathan Napier, from Rothamsted Research.
“The joint project allows us to culture salmon to market size in sea pens while extracting data to ensure new feeds support good growth, feed use and product quality,” Professor Tocher said.
“This is the largest feeding trial to validate the efficacy of the project,” added Professor Napier. “It’s extremely significant because it will demonstrate the ability to use omega-3 fish oils from plants across the whole production cycle of salmon.”
During the course of the trial, Dr. Monica Betancor, a Research Fellow at Stirling, will play a crucial role by checking on the salmons’ health and collecting data.
“Collecting samples and analyzing the data are imperative to the project,” said Dr. Betancor. “To test the performance of the fish, I’ll be measuring the weight and growth of the fish, but also looking at tissue and molecular samples comparing results of fish fed the new fish feed to salmon fed a standard diet.”
The project will both serve as a proof of concept and a potential solution to the sustainability issue in supplying fish oils to farmed fish.
“It’s taken a decade to develop plants able to produce the oils and be used in aquaculture,” said Professor Napier. “This GM technology shows great promise as a potential solution to help fish farming remain even more sustainable while continuing to grow as an industry.”
The new study is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.