From left: SalmoSim founder Martin Llewellyn with Brendan Robertson, Jamie Richards and Joseph Humble. Photo: SAIC.

Salmon gut simulator to be used by feed ingredient maker Royal DSM

SalmoSim – the Scottish start-up company behind an Atlantic salmon digestion simulator – has secured a new contract with Dutch nutrition, health and bioscience multinational Royal DSM to support the development of its sustainable aquaculture feed ingredients offering.

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The gut simulation technology will be used by Royal DSM to explore the effects of different ingredients, enzymes, vitamins and supplements that could be included in its range of salmon feed additives to boost fish health and wellbeing.

SalmoSim’s latest contract win comes as the University of Glasgow spin-out published new research in the journal Microbiology Spectrum demonstrating the value of using its artificial gut model to test the potential benefits of using prebiotics in salmon feed. Prebiotics are compounds typically found in food that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria or fungi and are commonly added as supplements to human diets.

Dr Sebastien Rider: Excited to be using SalmoSim's technology. Photo: LinkedIn.

Shift in bacteria

The study shows that using a commercially available prebiotic leads to a significant shift in the types of bacteria present within the gut, with increased levels of lactic acid and probiotic bacteria. Researchers also found greater levels of essential fatty acids were produced which are crucial for maintaining healthy digestive systems in fish.

With the aquaculture sector moving away from antibiotic treatment, novel fish feeds with functional ingredients – such as prebiotics – are being explored more widely by seafood producers and the supply chain.

In a press release, Dr Sebastien Rider, senior aquaculture scientist at Royal DSM and a former assistant manager at on-land salmon farm Swiss Alpine Fish, said: “We are excited to be using the SalmoSim technology to enhance salmonid nutrition and welfare. By exploring the impact of different combinations of ingredients we can gather essential feedback and data that will help to develop more sustainable and effective aquaculture feed products, which support fish health and the wider growth of the sector.”

Cheaper than feed trials

SalmoSim tests are designed to supplement live, in vivo, salmon feed ingredient trials, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

Testing sites are sporadically available, and the process can take up to six months to complete, compared to a six-week gut simulation for microbiome simulations and just days for digestibility trials. Each in vivo trial could cost up to £150,000 and, by comparison, the simulator can achieve results for a fraction of the time and cost.

The SalmoSim Atlantic salmon gut simulator. Click image to enlarge. Photo: SAIC.

The SalmoSim gut simulator was first developed during a collaborative research project that began in 2016, funded in part by Scotland’s Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC). The consortium, led by the University of Glasgow, included Norwegian research institute Nofima, feed producer Alltech and salmon farmer Mowi, with Ireland’s Marine Institute and University College Cork both involved in a linked project.

Dr Martin Llewellyn, founder of SalmoSim and reader at the University of Glasgow, said: “Our gut simulation system provides feed manufacturers like Royal DSM with a valuable opportunity for pre-screening the impact of various ingredients on fish digestive systems. The nutritional landscape is continually evolving, with both sustainability and fish health in mind. Yet, conducting live feed trials can still be expensive and difficult to arrange.

“SalmoSim offers an alternative science-based route to market, providing robust evidence for the supply chain and producers to inform future decisions about trialling key ingredients. We’re pleased to be supporting a leading international company with its mission to accelerate sustainable aquaculture production and transform the approach to nutrition.”

Scottish research

SAIC chief executive Heather Jones said: “It’s great to see SalmoSim expanding further and working with companies that have a footprint across the global aquaculture supply chain. What started off as a collaborative research and development project six years ago has now become an important asset for companies developing alternative feeds or new digestible medicines.

“The international success of SalmoSim shows how ground-breaking Scottish research can have a real-world valuable impact on worldwide food production systems, animal health and sustainability.”