Monday, November 1, 2010

MSc Module 3: Aquatic Animal Nutrition and Food Safety

The last two weeks were spent learning about aquatic animal nutrition, as well as several key aspects of food safety that are important to the aquaculture industry. 

The first few days we covered all the different aspects of live feed, specifically how to grow zooplankton and microalgae to feed to juvenile fish that are not developed enough to eat an artificial pellet diet.  Janet Brown lectured on zooplankton culture, while Ian Laing covered microalgae.  Both of these subjects involved practicals: in one, we hatched Artmeia (brine shrimp- more commonly known as ‘sea monkeys’) using industry methods to learn how this process is completed at the commercial level.  In the other, we formulated and mixed an algae culture medium and grew a new population of algal cells.  Both practicals gave us invaluable hands-on experience with these vital techniques.

On Thursday we received lectures from Gordon Bell, whose lessons dealt with the fascinating concept of replacing fishmeal and fish oil in aquafeeds with vegetable products.  We learned that while this practice is much more sustainable for the industry, the nutrient and fatty acid profile of the final fish product decreases dramatically, and a great deal more work needs to be done in this area.  However, once mastered, this technique has the potential to allow aquaculture to be a net marine protein producer, a concept that is considered a “Holy Grail’ within the industry!

The remainder of the first week and the entire second week was spent with Kim Jauncey, who covered a broad range of topics, including nutrient requirements, feed formulations, feed processing, broodstock nutrition, food safety, and nutritional pathology.  Overall the material was very thorough and gave a comprehensive overview of the nutritional factors to consider in any given aquaculture operation.

The module finished with a short exam, followed by a trip to the EWOS Feed Processing Plant, where pelleted fish food is made.  EWOS is one of the largest aquafeed manufacturing companies in the world, specializing in salmon feeds.  After learning about this procedure and the challenges associated with aquatic nutrition, it was fascinating to see it all put into practice (although I can’t say I enjoyed the smell!).

The next module is Genetics and Reproduction, which is not a subject that I am particularly fond of, but nonetheless is vital to understanding the foundations of sustainability within the industry.    

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