Wednesday, April 1, 2015

01/04/2015: The Aquafeed Interview

Published in International Aquafeed, March-April 2015 
Nils Einar Aas, Sales Director, Aker BioMarine shares why krill is beneficial to humans, fish, shrimp and pets alike, krill’s future and how Aker BioMarine is working to protect the krill resources of tomorrow. Aker BioMarine is a Norwegian fishing and biotech company. It provides krill products through a fully traceable and integrated supply chain.

There are substantial health benefits derived from krill products. Can you tell us about the range of krill based products that Aker BioMarine offers and any latest scientific innovations?
Antarctic krill lives in the coldest and most pristine waters on Earth, free of contaminants and environmental pollution. And did you know that krill is one of the largest biomasses in the world? We harvest krill and use it to produce krill meal and krill oil as an ingredient for aquaculture feeds, pet food and for human consumption with great health benefits.

There are three of our products I’d like to highlight. Firstly, Superba is our product for human consumption.  The red krill oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). In studies, Superba increases the Omega-3 Index faster and more efficiently compared to other marine sources. Krill oil has well documented health-promoting properties within heart, brain, joint, and inflammation. I actually have Superba with every meal in the office, and so do my colleagues.

Secondly, Qrill Aqua is our krill meal product for fish- and shrimp feed. Krill meal is dried Antarctic krill. Just like for humans, the highly bioavailable phospholipid Omega 3 fatty acids, the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin and high quality proteins speed up growth, improve filet yield and quality, as well as the fish’s heart health. The product has become an increasing relevant ingredient as the industry faces scarcity of fishmeal and fish oil.  This is the product that I am personally responsible for across the Asian market. Qrill Aqua contains a range of essential nutrients for shrimp and fish, including essential amino acids, feed attractants, phospholipid fatty acid, astaxanthin and cholesterol. Numerous studies document increased growth and higher efficiency with diets that contain krill.

Thirdly, Qrill Pet provides all the listed health benefits to our dogs. We have launched Qrill Pet in Europe and it will soon also become available in the US and other markets. Just like krill has numerous health benefits for humans fish, and shrimp, research indicates health benefits for pets’ vision, brain, cardiovascular, coat, liver, and kidneys. The krill phospholipid omega-3 also has a positive effect in regulating food intake in obese animals and an added value – and as for humans, it will prevent your dog from having a fishy breath after its meal.

I really enjoy working for Aker BioMarine! Aker had a long tradition in fishing before it established Aker BioMarine. It is a biotech company that has taken on the challenge of catching these small crustaceans, in harsh and vulnerable conditions, to develop products with considerable health benefits. The company’s heritage is integral to how it addresses the challenges and opportunities that we see in the horizon, in Norway and internationally.

Norwegians are explorers at heart and our innovation is driven by our focus on sustainability, customers and the desire to document and develop our product portfolio. As a highly scientifically driven company, there is significant ongoing research to document the benefits of krill. Krill has also proven to be a powerful innovation vehicle for our customers. We are innovating with our customers, our partners and on our own. Today we are conducting an eight-week study in Bangkok on shrimp. We know that fishmeal is a limited resource so we are looking to further determine the optimum level of krill meal inclusion in a low fishmeal diet for white shrimp based on growth performance and immunity.

Harvesting krill in a commercially viable and environmentally sound way is challenging. What eco-friendly technology is used by Aker-BioMarine to achieve this?

As the largest krill supplier in the world, our proprietary eco-friendly technology is paramount to our activities. Working in the Antarctic’s fragile ecosystem we are entrusted to care for and responsibly handle this bountiful, but not unlimited, resource. Our vessels, Antarctic Sea and Saga Sea, use Pelagic trawls with our Eco-Harvesting System. The system’s hose (between the trawl and the vessel) ensures that the fishing net to stays underwater during the entire operation. This minimises interactions between the net and surface predators, especially seals and birds, as the net is not hauled and shot. At the opening of the net, a fine mesh screen excludes unwanted by-catch When harvesting krill, the vessel moves very slowly in the water. This allows fish species caught in the net to easily swim out. We have conducted several surveys and we have found negligible amounts of fish as bycatch.

This method also ensures that the products we produce are of the highest quality as the krill is swiftly processed. Although our technology is recognized as the industry-leading standard, we are always looking to see how we can improve to work as sustainably and eco-friendly as possible.

Krill are a key species in the Antarctic eco-system. How does Aker-BioMarine seek to achieve long-term sustainable development with regards to krill harvesting?
With opportunities come responsibilities, especially for us working in the Antarctic’s fragile ecosystem. Besides our Eco-Harvesting, we also work closely with key stakeholders to achieve long-term sustainable krill harvesting. As the largest krill-supplier in the world we have a very strong interest in protecting the Antarctic environment.

International conventions limit the catch. The Convention of the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is an international treaty that oversees krill fishing with 24 members including six countries that fish for krill. In advance of each season our vessels notify CCAMLR about our fishing area and potential catches. Each year, the Norwegian krill vessels are used by the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research to conduct a survey in the Southern Ocean. In 2014, it was harvested a total of 290,000 tons of krill in the Southern Ocean, constituting only 0.5 percent of the estimated biomass in the fishing area. This harvesting rate is far lower than the internationally recognized precautionary catch limit, stating that one per cent of the estimated biomass can be harvested. Aker BioMarine contributes to The Association of Responsible Krill (ARK) Fishing Companies, an organization developed to promote research on for the sustainably harvest of Antarctic krill, by reporting monthly and haul-by-haul data from the fishery.

Aker BioMarine takes its certification as seriously as its technology. As of today we are the only Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified krill supplier. The certification is done by MSC assesses the fishery management, its impact on the stock and on species dependent on krill, while monitoring the wider eco-system. You can recognize this certification by a distinct blue eco-label on our products. We really encourage others to also become MSC certified.

Protecting the krill and the pristine waters in Antarctica is a collective responsibility. Aker BioMarine has many partnerships with regulatory authorities, NGOs and environmental researchers including WWF Norway. They advise us on how to develop the fishery in the most sustainable manner, and have brought scientists and experts into the conversation. So now we have introduced standards such as 100 percent observer coverage on our ships and satellite tracking on our vessels.

Krill products are attracting considerable attention and interest in the US. Where are Aker-Bio Marine’s other emerging markets?
Aquaculture and Pet are segments with great potentials. Qrill for aquaculture feeds are marketed world wide, such as in Europe, North America, Oceania and across the Asian continent.  Important segments are shrimp, numerous marine fish species as well as salmon and trout feeds. I am responsible for sales and marketing of Qrill for aquaculture applications across Asia and Oceania. Over the past years, we have seen a huge interest and so we also have a solid position in Asia and Oceania. I also wanted to share that our latest commercial-scale project confirmed that fish that received feed with krill offered higher fillet yields and quality than the control group. This is an exciting benefit that will further strengthen the position of feed makers offering feed containing krill.

The pet food market is a growing segment. Are there any plans to further develop Aker-BioMarine’s products range for this market?
Yes, this is definitely an area that we are seriously looking to explore and are already addressing. Our product for dogs is now on the European market and we are looking at how to develop similar products for cats and other pets, and market it across other markets. 

In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing the aquaculture industry both in the short and long term?
The World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2015 stated that food security is one of the most likely and one of the risks with the highest impact. If we continue to do things right, sustainable aquaculture can be an answer to one of the most critical questions of our time: how to feed the growing population and provide them with access to proteins. We know that the traditional dependency on fishmeal in aquaculture diets will not be viable. Krill can play an important part in this equation as it serves as an important nutrient, is palatable in vegetable diets, improves yield, quality and is sustainable.

Despite being the most abundant biomass known to us today, we must stay alert. However, with our Norwegian heritage and consciousness of taking care of the environment, we have addressed these questions early, set the standard and built the public private partnerships that will help secure the resources for tomorrow.

Read the magazine HERE.

The Aquaculturists
This blog is maintained by The Aquaculturists staff and is supported by the
magazine International Aquafeed which is published by
Perendale Publishers Ltd

For additional daily news from aquaculture around the world: aquaculture-news

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