Sunday, September 30, 2012

Francisco Saraiva Gomes, Aquaculture Business Unit, Novus International

Francisco Saraiva Gomes leads Aquaculture Business Unit at Novus International. After graduating in Marine Biology in Lisbon, he obtained his doctoral degree at Auburn University, USA and has worked in several positions related to aquaculture and marine biotechnology.
Novus specialises in health and nutrition micro ingredients and functional technologies including antioxidants, amino acids, enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics and mycotoxin binders. The company focuses in four main platforms: Performance Nutrition; Therapeutic Nutrition; Feed Quality and; Consumer Values.

This interview appeared in the July August 2012 edition of International Aquafeed magazine

Why is the aqua market so important in the Novus Strategy?

Last year I had the privilege to address the plenary of the world aquaculture society in Natal, Brazil. There I expressed my view that the aquaculture forecasts are an underestimate. Currently, aquaculture is predicted to increase to 220 mmt of production by 2050, from our current 60 something level today.
These estimates fail to incorporate technology development. Actually they assume that the gains in efficiency in aquaculture will continue to occur at a slower rate than in more sophisticated industries such as poultry. This is a mistake, because aquaculture’s efficiency is increasing every day.
Moreover, it is inaccurate to assume that aquaculture is comparable to poultry; aquaculture is a new platform for human development. Its applications go way beyond meat production per se. Algae is a good example. Algae culture is in many ways a spinoff of highly tech aquaculture sectors. If agriculture is the platform of land, aquaculture is the platform of water and it is essential for mankind to steer this new platform to fundamental sustainability, socially, environmentally and economically.
Aqua is important for Novus simply because we recognise how important it will be to feed the world.

What are the two majors issues Aquaculture is facing in the horizon 2050?

Sustainable nutrition will be a key issue affecting the development of the industry as a whole. To produce all this biomass we need to devise a sustainable sourcing for the raw materials that will be used for feed.
The fishmeal an oil dependency is perhaps the most significant issue, but surely not the only one. We must not be deaf to the criticism invoked about transferring millions of mt of soy produced on land onto the water. Soy is certainly a solution but will it be the only solution in the long term.
Alternative proteins must be investigated and algae, single cell protein or insect protein are no longer the science fiction cases they were 10 years ago. Not only, that but it seems more and more likely that feeds will be the preponderant vehicle to prevent disease in aquaculture.
Without proper health management, there will be no industry. The importance of feed also relates to species and culture systems. We need to learn more about the nutritional requirements of our animals so that we can design feeds that are more efficient, so that they are better absorbed. Conversion of feed is something so paramount to the industry that it affects everything from offshore licensing, to design of recirculated systems, to financial profitability and so on.
Offshore farming is perhaps the other big topic. The potential of the oceans to provide us with food is enormous. I’m convinced that the sustainability of the human species depends on farming the oceans. But the oceans are an extremely sensitive ecological compartment of the planet. We now know that in spite of the gigantic size of the oceans, we have actually been able to change their chemical properties as whole! This is by all measures an incredible fact.
So now we know how destructive we can really get if we do not pay attention. Should that prevent us from moving forward? I believe it should not. The only real alternative we have is not whether we should farm the oceans but how do we farm the oceans.
And there again, feeds and sustainable nutrition will have a major role. Salmon farming is the largest marine cage industry in the world. The two main environmental criticisms are one related with feed waste accumulating in the bottom of the oceans and the other related with biosecurity. Aqua feeds are definitely the solution for the first and a major supporting pillar for the second.
Sometimes the industry still falls on the trap of defending its sustainability by engaging in the argument “what we’re doing is the best alternative available so…?”. Actually, the world does not want to hear that, we are expected to give not the best available but the sustainable one. And if none of what we are using is the sustainable strategy, then we must recognise that somewhere in the world there will be growing voices of dissatisfaction.

What role does Novus intend to play in the aquaculture strategy horizon 2050?

Our goal is to be the referential provider of health and nutrition technologies in the industry. Size, revenue and profit all matter of course and we do have ambitious goals well before 2050. But I believe our legacy will be complete if in 2050, we could be recognised as one of the silent partners of a truly sustainable industry that in the space of a century went from virtually nothing, to the largest provider of animal protein in the world.

Can you elaborate on the role of Novus in aquaculture as a water platform?

Our role covers the entire value chain of aquaculture production from raw materials to harvest. Within that value chain, we focus on five key platforms: Feed Cost Reduction, Functional Feeds, Health through Nutrition, Optimised Raw Materials and Sustainable Practices. We do not provide the feed, the same way we do not provide raw materials or the culture systems. What we do is to optimise such raw materials or processes. This role allows us to be at the cornerstone of the development of the industry.

This year Novus is actively participating to the 2012 BioMarine summit in London. What do you expect or what do you see as a practical outcome for your aquaculture Think-tank?

I would like us to come out of that session with a structured document. One that could be published as a three to five year roadmap and could be considered as an agenda for a more in depth debate and discussion on how to drive marine aquaculture towards sustainability.

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