Genetic improvement of aquatic species can increase tolerance to soy protein ingredients that will enable higher levels of soybean meal to be incorporated into aquaculture feeds, improving growth performance, feed efficiency, and overall health and wellness.
Atlantic salmon have a high demand for good quality protein. Fish meal has been the main protein source in salmon diets, but it is becoming increasingly expensive and sustainable supplies are limited. This has led to the increased demand for additional protein sources for aquafeeds.
Soybean meal (SBM) is a promising candidate to partially replace fish meal because of the high digestibility of its protein, its ready availability and relatively low-cost. Unfortunately, SBM inclusion in salmonid feed has been limited to < 10% due to poor performance and negative physiological impacts in fish fed SBM-containing diets.
Studies have shown that there is significant individual and family variation in the ability to use SBM-derived protein in salmonids and that this trait has a moderately high heritability. Since the trait is heritable, it is possible to achieve SBM-tolerant lines of animals through the use of traditional selective breeding. Marker assisted selection (MAS) using genetic markers such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) can be used to compliment traditional breeding and reduce the time required to achieve genetic gains.
“My team and I are focused on the application of biotechnologies to improve productivity, efficiency and sustainability in aquaculture and related industries,” said John Buchannan, CEO of The Center for Aquaculture Technologies. “At CAT, we have a dedicated multidisciplinary team of scientists that have the expertise and experience to make this project a success”.
“The research presented here has the potential to have a significant impact on today’s aquaculture industry by helping develop another source of protein available for salmon diets. With the application of the technologies that we will develop, salmon farming in the future could look much different than it does today”.
The objective of this 7-month project is to use genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to identify Atlantic salmon SNPs associated with increased tolerance to/efficiency in utilizing SBM as a protein source. These novel markers will play a key role in the development of improved genetic lines that will allow for a significant increase in SBM inclusion in aqua-feeds for Atlantic salmon.
With consumption of seafood expected to increase in the next decade, soy-based feeds are an alternative to a flat supply of fish meal currently being used as a protein source in fish diets. The US soybean industry has already been at the forefront of developing new aquaculture feed sources, and Soy Aquaculture Alliance (SAA) is focused on meeting the demand.
“We are thrilled to be working with CATC on this project,” said Bridget Owen, Executive Director of SAA.
“The SAA represents farmers and people invested in the US soybean industry, and we recognize that increasing the amounts of plant-based products, including soy, in aquafeeds will be important for the aquaculture industry to move forward sustainably”.
“This research will develop genetic markers that will allow the industry to select broodstock that will be tolerant to negative effects associated with SBM,” said Owen, “We are really excited to see the results”.
The SAA is committed to building partnerships for abundant, healthy, homegrown seafood by connecting industry stakeholders and supporting practical industry research. It is governed by a volunteer board representing US soybean farmers and the aquaculture industry. Membership is open to Qualified State Soybean Boards and public and private entities in the soy, aquaculture and seafood industries.