Seafood and Soyfeed
Iowa Plays a Role in Meeting Global Demand
Iowa soybean farmers are responding to the world’s growing demand for seafood. That’s right. Seafood.
By 2030, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates an additional 40 million tons of fish per year will be needed to just to maintain current levels of seafood consumption for an expanded world population. Taking into account increasing consumption trends, the estimate is closer to 100 million tons.
“Already, wild caught fish cannot meet the demand,” says Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Director of Market Development Grant Kimberley. “Farm-raised fish will need to fill the gap.”
Most fish farming is now done in Asia. China has been home to 60 percent of the world’s aquaculture and a major supplier of seafood. However, Chinese demand for seafood is expected to grow by two or three times in the next decade. With more Asian fish likely going to China, the United States will find it more challenging to meet its own growing demand for seafood.
That makes the timing right for the new Soy Aquaculture Alliance (SAA), made up of nine state soybean associations, including Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, South Dakota, Maryland and Delaware, in addition to the United Soybean Board (USB). The SAA board held its first official meeting in St. Louis in December.
With Indiana Soybean Alliance taking the lead, SAA will work on development of the domestic aquaculture industry and promote a market for soybeans.
Fishmeal has traditionally been the main component in feeding farm fish. However, wildcatch rations are expensive and cannot keep up with demand. Soy-based rations are a healthful, economical, sustainable and environmentally friendly way to raise fish. New soy formulations can replace up to 50 percent of the fishmeal in feeds for many marine-farmed species and 100 percent of the fishmeal for many freshwater-farmed species.
Ocean-based aquaculture is predicted to be the fastest-growing aquaculture sector.
“In the past, investors have been hesitant to set up offshore fish farms because there was no permitting structure, and they had no idea what kind of restrictions might later be imposed,” SAA Executive Director Steve Hart says.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) has recently moved forward with establishing guidelines, and Hart is hopeful a permitting structure will be established within a year, allowing United States off-shore aquaculture to grow.
In addition, large indoor facilities make aquaculture possible in any climate; Hart says the Midwest is actually seen as having good potential for aquaculture because it is ag friendly with lower land costs, compared to the coasts.
Aquaculture may one day be part of Iowa’s livestock industry. Until then, soybean farmers provide a consistent, healthy and efficient source of protein to nourish the fish that feed the world.