Nutrition is a key issue for the fish farmer. He realizes that a balance must be struck between reducing feed costs, which represents approximately half of his fixed expenses to grow fish to market weight, and satisfying the fish’s nutritional requirements in order to produce a fast growing, robust, healthy product for the consumer. The staple ingredients in feeds for marine finfish have long been fish meal and fish oil, which have been processed mainly from wild-caught fish. However, fish meal is a dwindling resource that is increasing in price and is not sustainable at present levels in commercial feeds. This is widely recognized as a major obstacle that hobbles the rapid growth of the aquaculture industry. A great deal of research has been carried out to replace fishmeal with a variety of alternative plant-based protein sources such as soybean and corn gluten meals. However, these ingredients are less well absorbed, deficient in certain essential amino acids, less palatable and include anti-nutritional factors such as trypsin inhibitors. Consequently, the complete replacement of fish meal with alternative plant based meals has had limited success and remains elusive.
The Center for Nutritional Programming in Aquaculture (CNPA) was founded by a joint investment of Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research (IOLR) and ICA at the beginning of 2014 as part of the IOLR institute in Eilat; The National Center for Mariculture. The establishment of this center was based on the urgent need for focused R&D that will produce epigenetic protocols to program fish to absorb feed nutrients much more efficiently and that will be directly applicable to the industry. In 2014 we established the CNPA’s scientific infrastructure, advanced personal training and initiated a pilot project aimed to create specific fish lines as a tool to manipulate physiological pathways that govern protein absorption. The first practical and promising results were achieved by the use of a specific feed additive that significantly reduced the requirement for fishmeal in the white groupers diet without compromising growth. This initiative will continue and expand in scope in 2015. Further investment by the IOLR and ICA in scientific infrastructure is planned for 2015 with the aim to strengthen the CNPA’s research capabilities,. This will include the purchase of a scanning laser confocal microscope that will show case the CNPA’s imaging potential.
Needless to say, the CNPA initiative would have never been realized without the belief and support of ICA. The researchers wish to express their heart-felt and sincere gratitude to ICA for their sponsorship and faith in CNPA, which was and remains crucial for the center’s success.