What RAS innovations will take the industry to fully circular fish production?

Bringing circular approaches to the sector

Both Rottmann and Aurand believe that the industry can meet its sustainability and zero-emissions goals if it finds ways to use wastewater. Both are optimistic about the sector’s prospects as better. Rottmann has created a thriving business in iCell Aqua by integrating food-based wastewater streams with recirculating aquaculture systems. Its technology extracts the nutrients from wastewater and repurposes it as a feed ingredient – with minimal emissions and wastes. Thai Union’s open innovation leader. It works closely with startups that create ways to valorise wastewater. “These waste nutrients can’t just be disposed of, they have been used to produce different products,” he told conference attendees.

The potential of high-efficiency RAS

In Aurand’s view, designing and constructing high-efficiency recirculating aquaculture systems would be a food security and circular economy gamechanger. These systems – which would have been implemented anywhere in the world – could provide small communities and urban centers.

Aurand noted that countries with desert climates like the United Arab Emirates are investing heavily in the area. Dispersing RAS units has the potential to bring seawater to the masses while reducing the overall carbon footprint of fish production – and could become more economical as additional units come online.

Integrating RAS with other industries

Rottmann told delegates that with the RAS. In his view, these water streams can already meet aquaculture production needs and can only be used in their present state.

He told attendees about two waste capture and upcycling case studies from Morocco and Mauritania in Western Africa. Both countries have desert climates and had fishmeal plants that operate near port infrastructure. Rottmann explained that the plants did not use any processes to clean their wastewater – they simply discharged it into the port. “That’s all wonderful nutrient that should be captured and not lost,” Rottmann said. “But after you catch it, you still need to clean it.”

He sees the opportunity in putting that kind of waste stream through a bacterial fermentation system that would create a single-cell protein feed ingredient that could be used for the local livestock industry, but also use the cleaned wastewater for aquaculture. Like Aurand, he sees the ability of these systems to provide sustainable protein in desert climates. The limiting factor, in his view, is the capital expenditure needed to build that kind of water infrastructure.

“If we can get the cost of the water infrastructure, we can clean the water, eliminate pollution from the bay, grow a single cell protein and provide recycled water for desert communities,” he said. “It’s beyond growing fish on land at that point.”

Both Aurand and Rottmann stressed that entrepreneurs and innovators need to refine their processes for upcycling wastewater. This type of valorisation can produce a variety of ingredients for the food and pharmaceutical sector – but each process has its own “fit” and variables depending on the waste stream.

The industry has set its challenges ahead, and that the industry is on a good path. The shift from sustainable to circular could be closer than expected.

The 2022 Blue Food Innovation Summit took place in London from 14 to 15 June.

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