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New insect derived ingredient can drive performance and boost health in shrimp aquaculture systems

01 August 20218 min reading

An advanced growth of the industry increases feed demand, whilst the industry faces feed limitations and a need for performance gains

With its average global year-on-year growth between 5-10%, the shrimp industry, based mostly in Southeast Asia and Ecuador, has shown tremendous growth over the past decade. It has also shown its resilience throughout the recent pandemic with production remaining stable. As the world’s population climbs towards 8 billion, our food production systems are faced with the challenge of producing more output, with less input. Animal feed is no different; its production is compounded by competition between various animal feed industries for common feed ingredients. This strong growth and competition are putting pressure on the availability of conventional ingredients which rely on limited supply of non-renewable natural resources. In this context, pushing production systems to be more efficient and shifting towards a circular production model, will be the hallmarks of a sustainable growth in shrimp aquaculture.

In this article, we describe how InnovaFeed is exploiting the intrinsic benefits of insects to drive an increase in both growth performance and health resistance in the shrimp with a new high-performance feed ingredient, NovaGainTM, especially designed for shrimp feed.

Novel performance ingredient to boost shrimp production

The insect farming industry is a rapidly growing segment of the animal feed industry. It seeks to upcycle low value co-products of the agro-industry, converting them into high-value animal protein and oil sources for the feed industry. Increasingly used in the Northern European aquaculture industry as a replacement for high quality fish meal in salmonid diets, insect protein meal is establishing itself as a key novel ingredient in the pursuit of sustainable growth for aquaculture. In particular, the black soldier fly (BSF - Hermetia illucens) meal is not only a natural bio-concentrate of nutrients, but also a new source for molecules such as chitin, antimicrobial proteins, and fatty acids - which have functional properties that are able to boost growth performance and increase health resistance of animals.

Figure 1 An improved growth performance was demonstrated when NovaGainTM was added in the diets, regardless of the inclusion level tested. FCR was significantly higher in the control diet than in the 7.5% and 10.5% NovaGainTM diets. SGR of shrimp fed treatment diets significantly improved with increasing dietary inclusion; an increase of up to 25.29% compared to shrimp fed the control diet.

After 3 years of product development and running multiple (>10) trials in partnerships with independent research centres around the world on several shrimp species, InnovaFeed is launching NovaGain which leverages BSF’s unique properties whilst tailoring them specifically for the shrimp. This product has demonstrated gains in growth performance, both in feed conversion ratio (FCR) and specific growth rate (SGR) for the shrimp, as seen in the results of the latest trial (Figure 1). InnovaFeed believes that this bioactive meal, which combines nutritional and functional benefits, has the potential to become a game-changing novel ingredient at inclusion rates of 5-10% in feed ingredients to boost shrimp production, in particular, Litopenaeus vannamei.

Supporting health and welfare to drive down losses and increase yields

Beyond supporting better harvest output, this bioactive meal could also be part of the solution to address some of the common diseases which pose considerable challenges to global shrimp production capacity today. There are two diseases in particular – white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) and acute hepatopancreatic necrosis disease (APHND) otherwise commonly referred to as early mortality syndrome (EMS), both which could be reduced with the dietary inclusion of NovaGain.

As aforementioned, ingredients derived from BSF, are rich in compounds that can support the innate immune response of shrimp. Chitin is a natural compound which in the wild shrimp consume regularly when they feed on moulted exoskeletons. The chitin in the exoskeleton of BSF acts as an immunostimulant (Wang et al, 2005), by modulating the diversity of the gut bacteria. Lauric acid is a short chain fatty acid, that is also a known antimicrobial agent (Lieberman et al, 2006). Finally, antimicrobial peptides act as a strong defence mechanism to help insects survive in harsh conditions in the wild and have proven protective effects against these specific diseases in the shrimp. These molecules can provide a multitude of defensive actions for the shrimp from breaking down bacteria (Gasco et al, 2018) to guarding against WSSV (Xiao et al, 2020).

Figure 2 Cumulative mortality of L. vannamei fed diets containing NovaGainTM when challenged against WSSV and APHND respectively, showing health performance gains.


Building on these unique properties, InnovaFeed have derived the true value of this insect derived meal by capitalising on these functional elements, and being more than simply a novel source of nutrition. NovaGain positively impacts the survival of the shrimp when challenged against both WSSV and APHND (Figure 2). An increased resistance to WSSV is shown with a dietary inclusion rate starting from 4.5% and is shown across each diet containing this insect ingredient. Evidence for increased resistance to APHND, is also shown at an inclusion rate of 10.5% in the total diet.

Shrimp health is important for farmers to increase yields, but it also addresses more recent constraints of the industry – such as improving animal welfare conditions and managing a reputational risk due to disease related losses.

Generating value from farm to fork

By combining the benefits of growth and health performance for the shrimp, our product can generate economic value for farmers. This value is derived directly from feeding efficiency improvements and indirectly through growth rate improvements and a reduction of risk due to health concerns. The ingredient can also be used to reduce the amount of fish meal in shrimp diets at more than a 1:1 ratio – which also means an increased percentage of the diets can be reformulated with considerably cheaper plant-based meals whilst maintaining the health benefits of the diet for the shrimp.

Value is also generated by diets containing this feed ingredient through an improvement in final shrimp product quality. This insect derived meal has been shown to contain lower levels of heavy metal pollutants and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), thus improving shrimp product quality. Furthermore, as drivers such as traceability and feed sustainability are increasingly sought after by leading labels, accreditations and discerning consumers, NovaGain provides a strong communication platform for shrimp farmers and their clients with regards to product differentiation.

Clear market differentiation

Novel ingredients such as NovaGain can not only alleviate some pressure on conventional feed ingredients, but their use can be directly translated into commercial messaging through direct B2C labels – such as the “vive l’insecte” label in France. This is true of B2B style communications as well, for instance when launching efforts to reduce FIFO (Fish-in Fish-out) in line with international certification standards such as that of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). The key to this style of messaging hinges on quantifying impact with data driven evidence, which ensures that communication is clear and effective.

Figure 3 InnovaFeeds’ circular model drives the competitiveness of NovaGain. An independent LCA (life-cycle assessment) shows the positive role feed choices can have on CO2 impact.

The model that InnovaFeed has developed – one of circularity and co-localisation utilising only GMP+ certified co-products from existing industrial processes as the only feedstock – unlocks the potential of the insect farming industry. By integrating the insect meal industry into existing infrastructures, InnovaFeed reduces the carbon footprint of their processes by 80%. Standout innovations include sourcing 60% of the energy from heated exhaust vents at a local renewable energy plant and using wet co-products directly piped to the insect rearing facility. A detailed analysis of the process and scientific write up of the independently gathered results has been reported by Phan Van Phi et al., (2020).

InnovaFeed, one of the largest insect meal producers in the world, currently operates two facilities in the north of France, and has global ambitions. In late 2020, it announced a partnership with ADM to build another record-breaking plant in Decatur, Illinois, USA. This plant will be co-located with the largest corn processor in the world and is projected to have a yearly capacity of 60,000 tonnes of BSF protein products. ADM Decatur's corn-based by products will be locally upcycled to feed insects and will be directly conveyed through infrastructures connecting both companies. This production model will also allow InnovaFeed to use 27MW of residual energy recovered from the ADM process, which previously was not recovered.

Through a focus on industrial scale volumes, automation, co-product upcycling and quality products, InnovaFeed is set to have a strong impact on shrimp aquaculture and on global agriculture more broadly.

[box type="shadow" align="" class="" width=""]References: Gasco, Laura & Finke, Mark & Huis, Arnold. 2018. Can diets containing insects promote animal health?. Journal of Insects as Food and Feed. 4. 1-4. 10.3920/JIFF2018.x001. Chloé Phan Van PhI & Maye Walraven & Marine Bézagu & Maxime Lefranc & Clément Ray, 2020. Industrial Symbiosis in Insect Production—A Sustainable Eco-Efficient and Circular Business Model Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(24), pages 1-1, December. Lieberman, S.; Enig, M.G.; Preuss, H.G. A review of monolaurin and lauric acid: natural virucidal and bactericidal agents. Alternative & Complementary Therapies 2006, 12, 310-314. Wang, S.H., Chen, J.C. 2005. The protective effect of chitin and chitosan against Vibrio alginolyticus in white shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei. Fish Shellfish Immunology 19, 191–204. Xiao, B., Fu, Q., Niu, S., Zhu, P., He, J.,Li, C. 2020. Penaeidins restrict white spot syndrome virus infection by antagonizing the envelope proteins to block viral entry. Emerging microbes & infections 9, 390-412.[/box]

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