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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Aquaculture? Farming of the Good Health

Last week while attending the Alltech conference in Lexington, Kentucky, I listened to a wide range of speakers that challenged my thinking.  Some ideas weren’t new and others really made me think about food and farming and how things are changing at such a rapid pace.  I usually go to the sessions about beef or crop production since that is where I am the most comfortable.  This year I challenged myself to go to a session outside of my area of knowledge and comfort. 

Last year I was so fascinated with the research using algae and Omega 3-DHA, that I chose aquaculture to learn more about.  I will say that the session was some of what I expected and some that was not where I thought the conversation would go.   This is normal for sessions at Alltech.  The speakers talk about current productions and then challenge you to think about where farming will go in the future.
Aquaculture currently produces 50% of the fish consumed globally.  There are 237 species that make up aquaculture which is pretty impressive when you compare it to the few species that are farmed on land around the world.  China produces 58.7% of the world’s aquaculture and people were eating two times as much fish in 2012 as they were in 1960.  I was surprised to find that 17% of the animal protein consumed is fish. 

Last year, I learned about the effect that that Omega-3 DHAcan have on children (and adults) with ADHD.  This year, I learned that eating seafood can decrease the negative effects of diabetes, asthma, heart disease, stress, depression, and obesity while improving brain development and intelligence.  Wow!  That is a lot from consuming fish. 
The bioactive component of seafood and fatty fishes are a good source of Omega-3 DHA, Vitamin D, Protein, Selenium, Iodine, Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D.  In fact, fish is an important source of Vitamin D in populations in the Northern latitudes. 

Around the world, people are looking to raise more farm raised fish than wild caught fish for important reasons.  Farmed fish has a more controlled nutrient content.  The nutrient content of the fish is affected by the water temperature, maturity, season, genetics and the diet available.  Farmed fish is much less likely to contain organic pollutants, such as dioxins.  With so many variables affecting wild caught fish, it is easy to see why so many people are looking to aquaculture. 

So how much Omega-3 do we need in our diet?  According to this video from the IFFO, we should try to consume 3-4 grams of Omega-3 per week.

Alltech is working as a company to find ways to replace the need for fish oil and fish meal in the diets of farm raised fish.  As fish consumption in the form of both fish and fish oil supplements continues to increase, the availability of fish oil continues to shrink.  We saw results of studies testing different diets for the fish that tested both the nutrient content of the fish as well the filet size and quality.  The results look promising to feed an algae high in the Omege 3- DHA and EPA to replace the fish oil and meal. 
Now, here is where the presentations pushed my thinking.  I knew that Alltech had an algae plant and was producing algae to feed fish and possibly produce beef and other proteins higher in Omega 3-DHA, but I had never considered seaweed being cultivated and eaten.  Nine metric tons of seaweed are eaten annually in China, Japan and Korea.  Seaweed is a source of protein, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and growth hormones.  Ninety percent of the seaweed harvested is actually cultivated and demand has outpaced the ability to supply the world’s need for seaweed from wild stocks. 
Seaweeds and algae are used every day for gelling agents, prosthetics, dental impressions, laxatives, clarifying agents in wine and beer, cosmetics, and finishing and sizing agents in the paper and textile industries.  

My family continues to strive to eat more fish each week with the possibility of improved immunity, heart health, cognitive function and eye development, but I think it will be a struggle to get them to eat seaweed if they know it.
Did you know all of these things were included in aquaculture? 

Go to the Alltech blog to learn more about all the exciting things going on in aquaculture, algae and agriculture.  

 -A Kansas Farm Mom

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