These two topics will be the focus of a half-day discussion at the forthcoming Global Shrimp Forum and – ahead of the event – The Fish Site spoke to this trio of shrimp experts, to find out more about their opinions on some of the emerging trends within these two fields.

Key challenges in shrimp feeds
The key challenges facing fish feed pellet machine and farmers – and how to address these – will be among the top priorities of the session.

“The most pressing challenge is the current high cost of feed ingredients, shrimp feed prices in Asia have gone up by 7 percent in 2021 and year-to-date in 2022 they have gone up another 3 percent. This is difficult because the ex-farm price has not gone up in tandem, so margins are squeezed. And there maybe a time when farmers don’t make sufficient money, so they will stay out for one cycle – it’s very easy to do,” reflects Ronnie Tan, aquaculture lead at the US Grains Council, who will be chairing the session.

A recent trip to Seafood Expo in Barcelona really emphasised the point to Tan.
“It was the first time I’ve seen ESG go that far upstream and look at feed ingredients,” he explains.
Tan’s third point relates to the different values of different ingredients – namely, “whether all feed ingredients are created equal.”

Shrimp feed uses quite a lot of wheat – mainly for binding purposes – if you remove that there’s no real cheap feed ingredient to put in as a substitute.

“While corn and soybean prices will probably come down in price, the Ukraine war has bumped up wheat costs as well. Shrimp feed uses quite a lot of wheat – mainly for binding purposes – if you remove that there’s no real cheap feed ingredient to put in as a substitute, so my crystal ball’s a bit hazy at the moment,” he notes.

While the rising raw material prices might spell bad news for both farmers and consumers of shrimp, they may bring a silver sustainability lining.

“I can imagine that the costs of traditional shrimp feed ingredients will come down again, but having these increased prices also has a positive side-effect, because now feed crusher machine owner are more willing to look into alternative feed ingredients and these alternative feed ingredients are also better for the sustainability of shrimp farming in general, which is one of the main goals of the forum. While price increases have a terrible background, they might also have some positive side-effects for sustainability,” notes Brouwer, who is currently director of international business development at Veramaris.

person throwing shrimp feed into a pond
Hand-feeding shrimp in Thailand
The price hike in conventional feed ingredients creates an opening for alternative feed ingredients

“All industries are affected by an increase in prices, but novel ingredients are being less affected. There’s now very little price difference between algal oil and fish oil, for example,” he adds.

Brouwer also points out that trials have suggested that some novel ingredients also have benefits relating to yields, performance and lower mortalities.

“Every feed ingredient has its strengths and weaknesses and every one has a place in shrimp feed formulation. Yes, fishmeal is still the standard, but we’re not here to say one has to replace the other – with the increasing demand for shrimp feed there’s room for everybody,” he reflects.

Tan agrees that it’s more a question of what is needed in addition to fishmeal rather than instead of it. But, when it comes to novel ingredients – in particular emerging protein ingredients, such as insect meal and single cell proteins – he does add the caveat that it’s still too early to really know which is going to be the most successful.

“None of them are commercially available today and none have been used at a large enough scale for long enough [at least 18 months at scale] to be able to see their cumulative effect over the years,” he notes.

Functional feeds
Functional feeds are likely to be another key topic of debate at GSF. But, while they might have huge potential the quality – and efficacy – of existing ones is deemed to be decidedly mixed.

Functional feeds must come into the shrimp sector – there’s no other way. If you look at salmon feeds today, functional feeds play a very important role in preventing diseases and this is something that we lack in shrimp feeds. It’s coming though and it’s even more important in shrimp feeds because shrimp have a very primitive immune system and you can’t provide vaccines or even therapy because, as soon as the shrimp falls sick it doesn’t eat, so where is your mode of delivery? You can’t inject every single shrimp, so improved immunity has to come through functional feeds,

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