Hemp seed isn’t just a great source of nutrition for humans and other animals, it could also find its way into the diets of farmed fish.
In Scotland, University of Stirling researchers are continuing to investigate the potential use of hemp seed as a sustainable protein source in Scottish farmed salmon feeds.
Last year, an associate professor at the University’s Institute of Aquaculture, Dr. Monica Betancor, conducted a successful feasibility study delving into how hemp seed could be integrated into the diets of farmed salmon. Two types hemp meal were tested to see how they stacked up against soy and fishmeal – the most common sources of protein – in a number of aspects, and found hemp seed had a comparable nutritional profile.
Next is a full-scale project looking at how the fish handle hemp feed over the longer term and will include a 2-month feed assessment.
“By conducting a two-month feed trial we hope to prove that hemp protein can serve as a direct replacement for soy in terms of digestibility, nutrition and growth, “said Dr. Betancor. “From what we have seen already, it has only had a positive impact on the salmon involved in our first trials.”
Other aspects of the project will investigate sustainability, identifying methods for hemp farmers, feed companies and seafood producers to measure the carbon footprint of the entire process and determine whether an optimum composition can be identified that delivers the best nutritional results.
According to the USA’s NOAA, globally, aquaculture consumes approximately half a metric ton of wild whole fish to produce one metric ton of farmed seafood, although the percentage varies depending on the species farmed – including salmon.
Rare Earth Global is the company behind the initiative.
“Locally grown, plant-based ingredients are already more environmentally friendly than any imported soy or fishmeal but our zero waste approach to growing it also ensures that every part of the hemp plant is used for maximum value,” said Rare Earth Global director and co-founder Suneet Shivaprasad.
Also supporting the research are the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) and the UK Seafood Innovation Fund (SIF); the latter contributing £260,000 in funding.