Hemp diet trial for salmon to assess protein levels
Salmon will feast on hemp as part of efforts to reduce the environmental impact of Scottish aquaculture. A study, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, is investigating whether the plant can be used as a source of protein in fish feed.
The UK Seafood Innovation Fund has awarded £50000 to Rare Earth Global, an industrial hemp producer, to study how to incorporate the seeds into the diets of farmed fish.
Creating a protein powder from locally grown hemp seeds could reduce the sector's reliance on imported products, such as soybeans and fishmeal.
With support from the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Center (SAIC) and the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling, the project team has started a first feasibility trial to assess the impact of hemp protein on the health and fish welfare, looking at factors such as digestibility and nutritional value.
Researchers from the Institute of Aquaculture will conduct trials at facilities at the University of Stirling to assess the reaction of salmon to different varieties of hemp and the ingredient's possible impact on gut bacteria and the digestive system.
Hemp protein is already sold for human consumption as a plant food supplement. They are also used in livestock and poultry farming, as well as for the production of paper and textiles. However, the results of this study could allow locally grown hemp to be introduced for the first time as a basic ingredient in animal feed in aquaculture.
Early indications suggest that up to 50% protein content could be obtained from plants grown on UK soil, exceeding growers' minimum requirements of 35%, while reducing the sector's dependence on -vis imported ingredients such as soybeans and fishmeal.
Hemp and cannabis are biologically the same species of flowering plant, but "hemp" is legally defined (in the United States) as a variety that contains less than 0,3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical in cannabis that gets consumers high. In any case, the seeds of the plant do not contain significant amounts of THC, which is mainly found in the flowers, leaves and stems.
Rare Earth Global has begun exploring the idea of using hemp seeds in aquatic food as part of its zero waste commitment, ensuring that every part of the plant is used to maximum value.
Suneet Shivaprasad, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Rare Earth Global, said, “The aquaculture industry benefits from many new feed ingredients, but the hempseed trial is all about getting the most out of local ingredients. Hemp is one of the fastest growing plants, uses minimal water and captures up to eight times more carbon than most trees, making it a highly sustainable choice for many products. and different materials.
“Our goal is to ensure that every part of the plant has maximum impact, which is why we focus on aquaculture. Our studies show that protein conversion rates in salmon are much higher than in cattle or poultry, highlighting the significant potential for the sector to introduce it as a new sustainable feed ingredient. The process could be scaled up very quickly and we could see a whole new UK based fish feed supply chain emerge in the near future. »
Monica Betancor, Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Aquaculture, said: "We already know that hemp protein is suitable for human consumption, which is very promising, but this trial will help us better understand its impact on fish diets, including gut health and digestibility. There may also be additional nutritional benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties, and our goal is to gather appropriate data that can be used to inform future decisions about the suitability of this new dietary ingredient. »
In the United States, another project is underway to study the use of hemp as an ingredient in animal feed. The SUSHI (Sustainable Use of Safe Hemp Ingredient) project is investigating the potential use of hemp in animal feed. The program explores, among other things, the potential of hemp in aquatic food.
On July 28, Brandy E. Phipps, an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Life Sciences at Central State University, testified about these recherches before the Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Subcommittee of the United States House of Representatives Agriculture Committee.
She told the committee, “Showing that hemp is a safe food ingredient could provide new markets for the hemp sectors as well as economical and environmentally sustainable feed to produce healthy foods. »