Wageningen University: Feeding fish and pond yields more protein with lower quality feed

Feeding both the fish and the pond yields more animal protein using a lower quality feed for the fish. The feed not only targets the fish but also the pond organisms that help break down waste and produce natural feed for the fish. This results in a higher fish production. These results were revealed in a study in which Wageningen University & Research participated contribute to poverty alleviation and food security in Africa and Asia.

As different ingredients are used, this feed is cheaper than the conventional feed and is of less direct nutitive value to the fish. The difference is compensated by the fact that the pond provides more high-quality feed. ‘This makes it very attractive for a fish farmer’, according to researcher Marc Verdegem. ‘The fish production is the same, if not higher, and the fish farmer pays less for the feed’. In Bangladesh, for example, fish farmers saw their income increase by 22 per cent.

Food web
The new feed used in the study contains more carbohydrates that are only partially digested by the fish. Bacteria in the pond convert what is not digested into nutrients for the pond, contributing to the production of natural food for the fish through the pond’s food web.

Aquaculture has developed rapidly and intensified in recent years, resulting in overfed ponds and a disturbed natural pond ecosystem. Verdegem: ‘We studied how we can achieve a food web that ensures the pond stays healthy and functions as it should. Natural products such as pond organisms and plankton can contribute considerably to the fish’s menu’.

Food security
Improving the social, economic, and ecological sustainability of fish feed will increase the contribution of the aquaculture sector to fighting poverty and ensuring food security in Africa and Asia. Aquaculture is the fastest-growing production sector in the world and provides a crucial source of income for small-scale fish farmers and local communities. Moreover, bred fish such as tilapia, carp and catfish form an important protein source for many people.

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