Developing our Fish Feeds – Part 1

Introduction

Optimal Fish Food endeavors to provide transparent dialogue, innovative solutions, and performance-based fish feeds that promote fish health and longevity. Throughout our journey, we cannot express our gratitude to all of you who have supported us, continue to support us, and provide us with great feedback, comments, information and observations.

We receive a lot of questions every day, and we are delighted to share what we can. In an effort to address some of those questions more openly, we are going to start a series to share how we go about developing our fish feeds.

We are continuously updating our feed formulations based upon the very latest of research—both internal and external—so our feeds are always at the forefront of discovery. We feel that if our feeds are not changing, then they are stagnant, and therefore they are not advancing the latest in nutritional advancements. However, we do not “experiment” on our customers and their fish. Instead, we work internally to test our feeds and then release them to you AFTER we are confident that they will provide good results. In contrast to other feed manufacturers that may want their feeds to “never change”, our feeds will continue to evolve so as to incorporate the very latest proven advances in nutritional know-how and expertise. This is our commitment to our customers.

Starting today, we will begin a series of posts in which we will dive into some of the behind-the-scene details of how Optimal Fish Food is made. We will talk about things we are doing differently and discuss the many moving components required to produce fish feed ranging from ingredient selection, to extrusion technology, to feeding trials.

Join us as we dive into some deeper aspects of how Optimal Fish Food is reinventing fish food and why we stand so confidently behind our product.

What’s left to learn?

The short answer:  A LOT.

There are many components that go into creating fish food.  In very broad strokes making feeds requires understanding the true nutritional requirements of various fish, selecting feed ingredients, formulating them into diets, and manufacturing the pellets. Each of those broad categories carries a multitude of decisions and complexities.  Throughout this series we will touch on a number of them, but a good place to start is a quick history lesson.

From their origins before the 1950’s when fish were usually fed raw protein like horsemeat, aquaculture feeds have progressed immensely over the past 50 years.   However, even at the present time, the compositions of feeds for different fish in various countries varies widely.  A strong focus on improvements in feeds for carnivorous fish like salmon and trout initially relied on very high inclusions level of fish meal—fish eat fish.   However, beginning in the 1990’s there was increased focus on environmental sustainability, as well as the increased knowledge of actual requirements of specific nutrients (ie amino acids, fatty acids etc) that were accumulated via intensive governmental funding by aquaculture-focused countries (like Norway) as well as the US to support aquaculture programs at academic institutions to develop better formulated fish feeds.  Such efforts have been enlarged and augmented by private companies based on a combination of commercial aquaculture experience and laboratory studies.  In fact, there has been more knowledge discovered and tested about fish nutrition, gut biology and feed manufacturing techniques in the last five years than there have in the previous twenty.  The pace of understanding and potential improvements in fish nutrition and feed developments is accelerating not slowing and certainly not stopped due to the fact that we know most of what there is to learn about these areas.

Our industry has now progressed to the point that aquafeeds are specifically formulated for particular species of fish, optimizing not only protein and fat levels, but also, specific amino acid requirements, specific fatty acid requirements, and specific levels of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for optimal growth and health of a wide variety of cultured fish species.  Unfortunately, the “depth and breadth” of that knowledge differs depending on the market demand for specific fish species.

Many traditional fish food formulators employ a practice called “low-cost formulating” which is pretty much what it claims.  Since many ingredients that go into fish feeds are commodities, their prices can be fairly dynamic.  In order to ensure a set margin, companies are encouraged to change the ingredients to minimize the costs.  Although the diet may stay a fixed percent protein, the ingredients mixed together to achieve it can be vastly different.  We will expand upon this in our next post!

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