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Alltech Coppens seeing 'big opportunities' in RAS salmon smolt feed

The company will largely shift focus to nutrition of salmon smolts, shrimp and sea bream and bass with its latest bioscience center.

Animal nutrition company Alltech Coppens continues to increase its footprint in the global aquaculture industry with projects that go beyond studies traditionally carried out by the firm, including the emerging land-based salmon farming sector.

The company recently announced its research site Alltech Coppens Aqua Centre (ACAC) became the fourth Bioscience Center in Alltech’s research group, something that will allow it to expand its reach in the aquafeed sector to new markets and species.

With the ACAC site, Alltech Coppens will expand to work with more outsourced data through collaboration with different research partners working in aquaculture around the world with five strategic research alliances already in place.

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The refurbished center -- in which the firm invested $1 million (€864,000) in 2017 – has a completely new aquaculture system with 36 additional grow-out tanks provided by Malta-based AquaBioTech Group.

In addition, the company continues to produce aquaculture feed for 60 different markets around the world.

“We are not looking to become the largest feed producer in the world, but to increase our footprint through partnerships and collaboration in aquafeed,” Patrick Charlton, CEO at Alltech Coppens, told IntraFish.

The ACAC bioscience center will allow for research into a wider range of species, including freshwater and marine fish farmed in both warm and cold water.

Alltech entered the aquaculture feed industry with the acquisition of Netherlands-based Coppens International in 2016, and has developed a number of improvements since to continue to grow in the sector.

Although trout is a focus species due to the many applications it has in research, the company plans to include studies of other species such as sea bass and sea bream in the future, and is currently doing work in other aquaculture species including salmon smolts.

“At the moment, Norway is very focused on growing bigger smolt to reduce the amount of time the fish is exposed to natural conditions in sea cages,” Charlton said.

“To grow smolt to 500 grams in closed systems is presenting many challenges and that is the opportunity that we see," he said. "We don’t see ourselves producing feeds for grow-out salmon farming in the near future, but we believe our expertise can have a significant impact on these new smolt systems.”

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One of the biggest focus for the company at the moment is the study of feed for recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS).

“This technology is where we see the real opportunity for our research in salmon,” Charlton said.

Alltech Coppens has one factory in Germany for aquafeed production, and from there it supplies to farmers in Asia, North and Latin America and Europe.

Globally, Alltech produces some 200,000 metric tons of aquafeed a year directly, and it sees this production as a way to showcase the company’s core products developed to help farmers address some of the current challenges facing the global aquaculture industry.

The key focus areas for its research are fish health, gut health and digestibility, and overall fish performance.

"Aquaculture is seen as a key driver for Allltech’s global growth, and will be an increasingly important part of the operations," said Charlton.

Brazilian ambitions

In March 2017, months after the acquisition of Coppens, the company entered a collaboration agreement with Brazilian feed producer Guabi -- which produces aquafeed at three different locations -- through the acquisition of a minority stake in the company.

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“This is a very strategic collaboration that opened up new lines of investigation for us,” Charlton told IntraFish.

“There isn’t a lot of shrimp farming in Europe, for example, but through the alliances we have in Brazil we are increasing our focus on this species.”

In addition, the companies are working on the improvement of feeds for other emerging aquaculture species in Brazil, such as arapaima and pacu, produced mainly for domestic consumption.

“These are carnivore species that are being farmed as an alternative to species like tilapia," Charlton said. "We are working on the development of better feed for these fish, as we understand their requirements and best management practices in an aquaculture system."

Although there isn’t a particular market the company is targeting for further expansion, it will continue to look out for partnerships that will allow it to grow in the sector and increase the reach of the improvements developed by ACAC scientists.

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