Emily Fisher

Aquaculture’s Explosive Growth Means Farmers Are About to Run Out of Fish Food

Demand for fish meal will outstrip supply in the next two to five years, sending the industry scrambling for alternatives, says Lux Research


BOSTON, MA – July 14, 2015 – The booming $170 billion aquaculture industry could face a shortfall of fish meal and fish oil for feed as early as 2016, and demand could outpace fish meal supply by up to 16 MMT (Million Metric Tons) in 2025. The mismatch will hasten the opportunities for alternative sources of feed such as plant proteins, algae and even insects, according to Lux Research.

Fish meal and fish oil are the lifeblood of the aquaculture feed industry, and demand is growing at 8% annually. The demand for fish meal will nearly double by 2025, creating a need for over one million tons of alternative high-protein meal.

“The future of fish feed is a blend of alternatives – no single source will dominate as fish meal has,” said Sara Olson, Lux Research Analyst and lead author of the report titled, “Tightening Fish Meal Supply Creates Opportunities for Aquaculture Feed Alternatives.”

“However, most alternatives to fish meal have unmet needs of cost, nutrition and scale. To take advantage of the coming shifts, companies should find opportunities to address these challenges for these alternative sources,” she added.

Lux Research analysts evaluated the aquaculture industry’s search for feed, and the decline of fish meal and fish oil production. Among their findings:

  • Fish meal prices have quadrupled since 2000. Fish meal and the alternative soy meal are both becoming more expensive sources of protein. Fish meal prices have quadrupled since 2000 and still rise at a 10% annual rate, while soy meal prices have doubled since 2007.
  • Three species dominate aquaculture feed demand. Shrimp, tilapia and salmon account for 40% of the global fish feed consumption, with the remainder coming from trout, catfish, carp, and other fish and crustaceans.
  • The majority of fish meal alternatives are in their infancies today. Alternatives like insect protein, recycled waste, and algae face challenges like low production capacity, high cost, and consumer aversion that make them unrealistic protein sources for aquaculture feed today.

The report, titled “Tightening Fish Meal Supply Creates Opportunities for Aquaculture Feed Alternatives,” is part of the Lux Research Agro Innovation Intelligence service.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

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