In recent years, I’ve been involved with a Norwegian fish farming company as a board member and as a result I’ve learned a lot about the salmon farming business.
The company is based in Norway and is focused on the development of farms that are land-based rather than traditional farms in sea cages. This is a much more environmentally friendly way of producing quality salmon.
Salmon farms are now the fastest-growing type of food production system in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund, and are currently fed in part with land-intensive crops such as soy, and with smaller fish harvested at an unsustainable rate from the ocean. For some time now work has been going on to find more environmentally friendly options when it comes to salmon food.
I read an article by Adele Peters about the company Ÿnsect which is building a new vertical farm which will soon begin raising hundreds of millions of insects. Inside, in trays stacked under 130-foot-high ceilings, an automated system will grow and process beetle larvae for use in products such as pet food, fertiliser, and fish feed, dramatically shrinking our environmental footprint.
Insects are an excellent protein source for pet food and food for livestock and even for humans. Ÿnsect believes that it can have a major impact by initially focusing on food for farming before expanding to other areas including food for people. They realise that for most of us food made from insects is still very niche.
Inside the new farm robots will feed, hatch, harvest and process mealworms in trays stacked in tall towers, with AI monitoring the environment to optimise the conditions for the insects. Independent studies into feeding salmon have shown benefits from feeding insects include the fact that salmon reaches the maturity stage faster with less food needed. Additionally, there is less mortality, so the farmers have bigger harvests than before.
While Ÿnsect is already producing insects for fish feed, pet food and fertiliser in its small first farm, the new farm, set to begin production in early 2022, will allow it to upscale. The company’s customers are ready and Ÿnsect has contracts worth $100 million with fish feed producers.
By 2050, it’s projected that food production will have to grow by more than 70 per cent to meet demand, but the farmland needed to produce that food doesn’t exist. Clearing more forests for farming, at a time when trees are a critical part of the fight against climate change, also doesn’t make sense.
Producing farmed salmon does not need to depend upon food that is grown on farmland and food from insects reduce the environmental impact. Alternative sources of salmon food are urgently needed now when you consider that the farmed salmon industry has grown three-fold in less than 30 years.
The new factory will produce no waste, with the insects turned into protein and fertiliser. Replacing present arrangements with a less polluting insect alternative will reduce carbon pollution and the company says the factory will be carbon negative.
Finally, will it be possible to feed the world sustainably? Our vision must be for a future where nature and technology work in harmony to do just that, and a world where people are empowered at a local level to fix our broken food system. The missing link in the modern food chain, insects, can be used to form a bridge between food waste and food production.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at [email protected]