Growth Industry Creates New Demand
While cattle, hogs and poultry continue to be the soybean farmer’s largest customer, another livestock commodity is quickly moving up in the ranks. Aquaculture, or fish farming, is becoming more popular as the demand for safe, healthy fish continues to grow globally. To meet this demand, more people are turning to aquaculture as a sustainable way to grow aquatic products as ocean capture fisheries, which have provided the majority of edible fish products for the world, have reached maximum sustainability yields. Demand for aquaculture is expected to rival global swine and poultry industries in the next 30 to 40 years.
Sharon Covert from Tiskilwa, Ill., a United Soybean Board (USB) director and USB’s aquaculture initiative team lead, is looking for ways to grow the aquaculture industry here in the United States.
Covert says the purpose of the initiative is to look at goals and strategies to advance aquaculture nationally and globally to coordinate partnerships and investments to advance soy use in aquaculture.
“The U.S. imports more than 80 percent of its seafood,” Covert says. “And we would like to see more done here than abroad. Having more U.S.-based aquaculture could provide more job opportunities since there is a huge demand for seafood and American soybean farmers are ready to meet that demand.”
Although aquaculture is not as popular in the United States, it has grown significantly in Asian countries, including China. According to Michael Cremer, aquaculture technical director for the U.S. Soybean Export Council, nearly 2 percent of arable land in China is fishponds and the industry is strongly supported by the government.
“Despite having a 3,000 year history of aquaculture in China, significant growth in the Chinese aquaculture industry did not occur until after the 1986 change in farm policy,” Cremer says. “Prior to that, all farms were assigned a production quota. There was little feed for fish, so most production was manure based and production was primarily of low value, filter feeding species that had limited market appeal. After the switch from production quotas to an open market system in 1986, the industry slowly began to develop in response to changing consumer demand.”
Cremer says in the early to mid 1990s, as household income grew, feed mills were built and technology was developed to produce higher value and more desirable fish species.
“The real explosion in aquaculture growth came after 1995, as higher quality feeds became available and fish and shrimp farmers learned how to produce species consumers wanted. Demand for aquatic products in China is projected to continue to grow at a rapid pace due to population growth and increasing consumer demand, though per capita consumption of fish in China still lags behind many other countries in Asia.”
This provides even more opportunities for new soybean markets for the American farmer. In order to produce healthy fish products for human consumption, fishmeal feed must be of high quality and availability and low cost, which it is currently not.
According to Dr. John Schillinger of Schillinger Genetics, an Iowa soybean company based out of Des Moines, there is a need for a high protein soybean source derived from either a commodity soybean processed into a protein concentrate or a high protein, “nutritionally tailored” soybean meal from new soybean varieties.
“The content of protein in commodity soybeans has declined over the last 20 years and was estimated at 34.9 percent on, as is basis, in the 2010 crop,” Schillinger says. “Schillinger [Genetics] is attempting to reverse the decline in protein trend by redesigning the soybean composition of its variety in order to meet the feed ingredient demands of aqua species, such as salmonids (Atlantic Salmon/Rainbow Trout).”
The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) is helping to sponsor feeding trials of several Schillinger varieties using Rainbow Trout in research conducted by Dr. Rick Barrows of USDA. Barrows, an aqua nutritionist based at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service center near Bozeman, Mont., works with other aqua nutritionists around the globe and conducted extensive studies in 2010 on Rainbow Trout nutrition digestibility and growth involving Schillinger soybeans.
“Dr. Barrows’ studies showed a significant improvement in digestibility and growth of the Rainbow Trout when fed several of Schillinger’s soybean varieties versus a fishmeal standard,” Schillinger says.
Barrows this year will study new, uniquely prepared soybean meals to understand more about the proteins and compositional factors and their interactions with different processing technologies. Studies will include research comparing soybean protein sources and their effects on the onset of enteritis, or inflammation of the intestines, of trout and salmon.
According Barrows, soybean meal causes enteritis in Rainbow Trout and Atlantic Salmon. However, when further processed soy protein concentrate is fed, enteritis is not observed, but in the past, the concentrate has been too expensive to use at high levels.
“What’s exciting about Schillinger Genetics’ soybean varieties is the soybean meal doesn’t create that problem,” Barrows says. “Using non-GMO seed selections and through breeding different types together, focusing on nutritional traits, they were able to develop a high protein soybean meal that doesn’t appear to cause enteritis.”
Barrows says enteritis is more common among carnivorous fish, while herbivores are usually able to tolerate higher levels of dietary soybean meal.
“Carp and catfish diets contain significant levels of regular soybean meal with good results, but a variety of marine species cannot handle it.”
This year, ISA will sponsor studies with the Yellowtail fish species at the Kona Blue Water Farms in Hawaii. These studies will involve Schillinger soybean meals tested in 2010 by Dr. Barrows.
“The opportunity for new markets for U.S. soybeans could include aqua feed varieties in a few years, giving farmers a choice for marketing their soybeans,” Schillinger says. “The demand for ‘redesigned’ soybean meal for aqua feeds will grow as aqua farming grows globally.”