Sustainable prawn-feed additive boosts quality and size

A natural, sustainable prawn food additive based on pond-grown, self-replenishing marine microbes is producing bigger, better quality prawns without depleting wild fish stocks.

CSIRO's sustainable prawn feed produces plumper, tastier prawns without depleting wild fish stocks.

Researchers at CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship, in partnership with the A$75 million Australian prawn industry, have developed a food additive for farmed prawns that project leader and FFF director Dr Nigel Preston says is a game-changer for the industry.

“Novacq™, the culmination of over 10 years’ work with the prawn farming and prawn feed manufacturing industries, is a feed additive that, when fed to farmed prawns, means they grow on average 30 per cent faster, are healthier and can be produced with no wild-harvest fish products in their diet, a world-first achievement in sustainability,” Preston said in an August 2013 FFF newsletter.

 "We fed Novacq to black tiger prawns and it made them even better for consumers, the environment and prawn farmers.

Australian prawn farmers typically feed prawns pellets containing sustainably sourced fish meal or fish oil to speed growth and produce high-quality, healthy specimens.

CSIRO’s decade of research into prawns in farm ponds and marine estuaries revealed that their natural diet includes marine microbes. Researchers transplanted these microbes into controlled-environment ponds, harvesting them to form the basis of the Novacq product, which can be added to prawn feed as a bioactive ingredient akin to a nutritional supplement. Once a portion of the microbes have been harvested, they repopulate, creating a self-perpetuating system.

Novacq-fed prawns grow signifcantly bigger while retaining their flavour and quality.

Over the past five years, Novacq has been added to the diet of farmed prawns in dozens of experimental trials, locally and across Asia, showing for the first time that fish meal and fish oil can be replaced completely in prawns’ diet with no consequent decline in quality, taste or size. Potentially, this frees the prawn aquaculture industry from reliance on wild fishery resources, slashing costs and boosting sustainability.

Novacq netted Preston and his team the prize for the Environment, Agriculture and Food category in The Australian Innovation Challenge.

Australian-owned, locally based Ridley AgriProducts is licenced to produce and distribute Novacq™ in Australia and several South-East Asian countries. Currently, Ridley is performing additional tests and further farm-scale trials and ramping up to full-scale commercial production.

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