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Aquaculture feed is used when rearing marine livestock such as fish, shellfish, and algae. Quality nutrition is needed for healthy growth and reproduction and feed usually consists of fats, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Extruded aquaculture feed floats on the water surface and pressure-pelleted feed will sink to the bottom.

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Apart from floating and sinking feed, pellet size and protein content are key parameters. Pellets should be large enough to be quickly found and still swallowed easily. Different species require different diets representing the plant-based or carnivorous diets in the wild. The required protein level in aquafeed differs per species, fish size and age, and breeding environment.

Aquafeed still relies very much on fish meal and fish oil made out of the by-catch of fisheries, which due to the growing worldwide protein shortage actually enhances overfishing. Insects, plant-based ingredients, and aquaculture by-products are therefore seen as promising more sustainable sources to help create the 37.7 million tons of aquafeed required by 2025.

Commercial fish feed manufacturers process dry ingredients for long-term storage and transport. Farms that manufacture feed themselves can more easily make wet feed and use local raw materials. Often feed is supplemented with certain additives such as mold inhibitors, pellet binders, grain conditioners, anti-stress agents, or for example immunostimulants as an alternative to antibiotics.

Technology for packing and processing aquafeed

As for every production plant, the technology used to make aqua feed will differ greatly depending on available resources and raw materials as well as the end product and quantity.

Generally speaking, the process is as follows: If required wet materials such as fish scraps are cut into smaller pieces and course dry materials like grains need to be milled first before blending. This premix or dough can then be shaped into the desired form by for example a pellet press or extrusion cooker and will be dried afterward. Starches and proteins are key in the formulation because they form a large part of the diet and alter properties when exposed to heat influencing for example solubility and digestibility.

Pasteurization or heat is essential for longer shelf life and is preferably stored in a cool and dry place. Silos systems should be easy to clean and provide easy accurate dosing into desired bagging systems or bulk containers for further use.

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