The circular economy in aquaculture

Shrimp are popular. Ecuador is the world´s second largest producer only surpassed by India. Yet the country’s shrimp farms also produce a lot of valuable residues. A team from the BU Aqua saw this as an opportunity for a new product that contributes to sustainability in various ways.

When Hiroshi Ozeki looks out his office window in Durán in Ecuador, he can see the anglers at work in the Guayas River. His customers are practically outside his door. Hiroshi is the Head of the Business Unit Aqua for the LATAM and NA regions. The Symrise production facility is in the center of the Ecuadorian shrimp production.

Alongside oil and bananas, shrimp are one of the country’s second most important export products. In 2019, Ecuador exported 3.6 billion US Dollars’ worth of shrimp around the globe. The animals are bred in large aquafarms, harvested after three to four months, and then packed and shipped to many countries around the world. Some customers want shrimp without heads and shells; only the tail can stay on. Peeling takes place in factories on-site, directly after its harvest. This results in more than over 5,000 metric tons of shrimp waste each month. “This residue was a big problem for the industry up until a few years ago,” says Hiroshi. “It frequently ended up on surrounding fields.” An environmentally friendly solution was needed.

“We saw these catch leftovers as more of an opportunity than a problem,” says Hiroshi. There are nutrients we can extract from shrimp heads. With its experience in hydrolyzing different raw materials the BU Aqua worked to develop a process using the shrimp remains to manufacture a high-quality ingredient that contained all these nutrients and could be used for the manufacture of diets for farmed fish. The result is Actipal HP1, a powder rich in peptides that is the best performance palatant and also nutritious, that in turn contributes to better health of the fish, has a long shelf life and is easy to transport – ideal for the needs of fish feed processors. It is manufactured in a batch hydrolysis process with the help of enzymes. BU Aqua thereby guarantees a consistent, high level of quality. The quality of the shrimp is important, and Hiroshi explains that it is very high in Ecuador. This has to do with the shrimp farming methods used in the country.

Henry Hiroshi Ozeki Campos is leading the BU Aqua in the regions LATAM and NA.

In order for the circular economy model to function, it is important that the employees of the BU Aqua keep an eye on the quality of the side streams.

In 2019, Ecuador delivered shellfish worth 3.6 billion US dollars worldwide.

In powder form, Actipal HP1 has a long shelf life and is well suited for transport.

Low intensity or fewer shrimp are raised per square meter of water in Ecuador than in other countries. The use of antibiotics to prevent diseases is also very low, says Hiroshi. The location of the production site also plays a role in the quality. “We’re also located here in Durán to keep transport distances short. We process the shrimp products within 24 hours of catching them,” Hiroshi explains. BU Aqua sells the finished product around the world. The most important buyers are in Europe. The majority of the product goes to salmon feed producers in Norway, which has strict regulations aimed at making fish farming as environmentally friendly as possible – also for fish feed. Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing sectors in food production around the world. But commercial fish production has its pitfalls. Critics continue to find fault with the contamination of water through aquaculture as well as its focus on predatory fish, which are often fed a high percentage of fish meal to promote healthy growth. Fish farmers need fewer fish meal in their feed when they use Actipal HP1 since it has high nutritional value. Because of its attractability, the ingredient helps the feed pellets really eaten before they can sink to the bottom (of the fiord or estuary) and become an environmental burden. It even provides a small quantity of astaxanthin molecule (a lipid-soluble pigment) that is characteristic of shrimp. Hiroshi is convinced: “With Actipal HP1, we are helping to make commercial fish farming more sustainable in the long term.”

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