Tuesday, March 13, 2018

the interview: Dr Neil Auchterlonie, Technical Director, IFFO

Dr Neil Auchterlonie joined IFFO in 2015, having worked previously in technical and production positions in aquaculture companies, consultancies, and government department and research agencies in the UK.
He has managed aquaculture and fisheries science programmes in both public and private sectors. He has also held positions on a number of scientific and technical committees.
Academically he holds a BSc in Marine and Freshwater Biology from Stirling University, a MSc in Applied Fish Biology from the University of Plymouth, and a PhD in Aquaculture (halibut physiology) from Stirling University.
Starting February 2018, Dr Aucherlonie will be representing IFFO in a monthly column in International Aquafeed.
He commented on the new endeavour, “IFFO is very grateful for the platform to provide a regular contribution on fishmeal and fish oil in International Aquafeed. It is an opportunity to provide insights from the fishmeal and fish oil industry and join discussions on aquafeed ingredients.”

Can you tell us about your history in Aquaculture and your desire to specialise in it?
For someone with an interest in aquatic biology, as well as a love of the outdoors, aquaculture is an ideal career. It is also an opportunity to be involved with the production of high value, high quality, farmed seafood, and it is intellectually stimulating to be involved with a young innovative food sector.
The fact that aquaculture continues to grow in importance for global food security, and that fed aquaculture species are an efficient way of producing protein, makes it straightforward to understand the importance of everyone’s role in this great industry.

Would you recommend technical expertise or sustained academia for young professionals interested in the industry?
Aquaculture is certainly a very technical industry, and a detailed understanding of the biology of the farmed species as well as the aquatic environment are at least a foundation for a career in the sector.
That is not to say that an academic background is essential, as for many jobs the practical experience of working on fish and shellfish farms is equally important.  For anyone interested in coming into the industry my suggestion would be to gain practical work experience in the first instance, not least to experience working outdoors in an aquatic environment throughout all four seasons and understand the demands on the body and mind that come with that. Many people like the challenge, but it isn’t for everyone.

Why do you believe it’s important to challenge the opinion that ‘insect meal’ or ‘plant-based’ diets are the way forward in comparison to traditional fishmeal?
Firstly, it is important to get the message across that fishmeal and fish oil are highly nutritious, sustainable, essential ingredients for aquafeeds.
There are developments in the novel ingredients sector, and even in the established alternatives (e.g. soya certification). IFFO recognises the need for an increasing volume of ingredients for aquafeed to satisfy the demand of a growing aquaculture sector.
On occasion, some of the messaging around the alternatives has been a little misleading, for example sometimes including reference to the sustainability of fishmeal and the environmental impact of the reduction fisheries, and IFFO will challenge these statements, as they are not based on fact.
The environmental impact of the terrestrial ingredients is often assumed to be less than fishmeal, but that is not always the case when a range of parameters is analysed. Similarly, the nutritional profiles of these ingredients vary, and it is important to recognise that there is no straightforward substitute for fishmeal because of the profile it carries. Many of the micronutrients provided by fishmeal require supplementation where fishmeal inclusion rates have declined, and that may be costly and also carry different environmental impacts. It really is a very complex story, which is being oversimplified in the media.

One of the IFFO mission statements states “Protects and improves the image of the industry; promoting high standards of ethics, governance and respect for the environment.” – How can the industry work together to achieve this?
IFFO as the fishmeal and fish oil industry trade body is really the vehicle for this work, which is why it is written into our vision statement. The industry has made much progress over time, and nowhere is that more apparent than the development, implementation and success of the IFFO Responsible Supply scheme. IFFO RS-certified product accounted for an estimated 49 percent of global fishmeal supply in 2017, a proportional industry figure well in excess of other aquafeed ingredients.

How have you seen IFFO grow and change in its practices since you started your role?
As an organisation, IFFO has always invested in scientific and technical projects, and data and information are critical to developing successful strategies for the industry. The subject matter is very wide-ranging, covering fisheries management, marine environmental science, climate change, fish and animal nutrition, and even human health (when looking at the benefits of long chain omega-3 fatty acids).
In many ways I am just the caretaker of the work previously undertaken by my predecessors in the role such as Dr Andy Jackson, and Dr Ian Pike, so what you see is a continuation of the evidence-based approach that IFFO has always adopted.
IFFO has always been proactive in joining conversations on key issues, and with Andrew Mallison (IFFO Director General) and the IFFO board we have identified areas where there may be knowledge gaps that require addressing. That process will help inform strategy for the next few years.

The IFFO RS Standard is a leading standard in the certification of marine ingredients – do you think it’s important that all companies strive to achieve this?
IFFO RS continues to grow over time and has been very successful for the fishmeal industry.
The recent development of v2.0 is evidence for continual improvement, and the standard brings into the supply chain some confidence for a responsibly produced product in a B2B scheme.
IFFO RS also manages a Chain of Custody standard, which helps to extend that confidence through the supply chain. With an increasing adoption of independently certified schemes in the seafood sector, and the importance of that approach widely recognised, IFFO RS covers a key point at an early stage in the supply chain for aquaculture.

What makes IFFO stand out as a governing body in aquaculture?
IFFO represents a sector that is the foundation for modern fed aquaculture. Without the fishmeal and fish oil that constituted the majority of the early aquafeeds, the technological development in other areas such as engineering and health would have been restricted. Providing ingredients for diets that met nutritional needs of farmed species but without the scientific body of knowledge at that time, facilitated industry development.
Now that fishmeal and fish oil are more strategic ingredients rather than commodities, they have an even more important role to play in meeting nutritional needs at key production stages in juvenile feeds, broodstock diets, etc.
In the role of representing that perspective, IFFO’s position in global aquaculture industry influence is secure.

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