Feeding Beans to Fish

An innovative new project at The James Hutton Institute could bring major benefits to Scotland’s fish and agriculture industries while improving the sustainability of UK farming.

The James Hutton Institute is one of 10 partners in the £2.6 million project co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, which will be led by salmon feed company EWOS. The project, worth £212,000 to The James Hutton Institute, aims to improve faba beans as a potential food source for salmon, pigs and poultry.

It is one of the successful projects awarded by the Technology Strategy Board as part of their Sustainable Protein Production competition. It was launched in response to worldwide pressures on soya production and an over reliance on imported soya in the UK.

The consortium proposes to develop processes that separate faba bean flour into two fractions – one that is high in protein and one that is low in protein and high in starch. The high protein product will then be tested in fish diets and the low protein product in pig and poultry diets, in order to improve the bean product for those markets and reduce levels of imported soya and fishmeal.

As well as providing new food sources, growing more faba beans will bring enormous benefits to the cropping system as it helps by fixing nitrogen in the soil, which improves soil fertility for subsequent cereal crops and reduces the need for artificial fertilisers.

Dr Gavin Ramsay, one of The James Hutton Institute scientists involved, explained the potential benefits of feeding beans to fish. “Salmon are very efficient converters of protein to meat, much more so than terrestrial animals,” he said.

“The fishmeal traditionally used in salmon diets cannot meet the rising demand for salmon, so the feed industry is turning to vegetable protein sources to replace fishmeal in salmon diets. Soya protein is not an ideal feed component given the increasing competition for soya bean products and the environmentally damaging nature of soya bean cropping in South America.

“This project aims to create a viable and beneficial alternative to soya,” he added.

Dr Ramsay will work with The James Hutton Institute colleagues Dr Alison Karley and Dr Pete Iannetta on the project.


Further information:
The four year project ‘Development of protein-rich and starch-rich fractions from faba beans for salmon and terrestrial animal production respectively’ is led by EWOS Ltd based near Bathgate and involves five industrial partners; BioMar Ltd, WN Lindsay, Limagrain, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Ltd and Harbro Ltd and five academic partners; the Universities of Stirling, Aberdeen, St Andrews, The James Hutton Institute and SAC.

The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led government body which works to create economic growth by ensuring that the UK is a global leader in innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy.

Published on 29 September 2011 in Sustainability and Communities , Food, health and wellbeing