Investigating the potential of nutritional programming to improve the utilisation of sustainable feeds in aquaculture

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Institute of Aquaculture

Abstract

This project will use the concept of "nutritional programming" to improve the efficiency of feed utilisation in aquaculture. Nutritional programming involves an early dietary intervention that can stimulate physiological functions during sensitive, early developmental stages, and effectively "programme" metabolic and immunological processes so that the animal can respond better to a similar dietary challenge later in life. Specifically the project will address issues with current salmon diets that now use high levels of plant protein and oils, which can lead to reduced performance in the fish and the final product that has lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish are an important component of a healthy diet providing high quality protein, key minerals and vitamins, and an almost unique source of the essential omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Increased dietary intake of these omega-3 fatty acids is associated with beneficial health effects, including reducing incidence and severity of inflammatory and pathological conditions including cardiovascular, neurological and developmental diseases. However, all marine fisheries are fully exploited and, since 2015, more than half of all fish and seafood is now supplied by aquaculture. Paradoxically, farmed fish, such as salmon, are themselves reliant on finite and limited supplies of fishmeal (FM) and fish oil (FO), themselves derived from marine fisheries. Alternative, more sustainable feeds have been developed with much of the FM and FO replaced by plant proteins and oils. While the replacement strategy has been in the most part successful it has had a major consequence in reducing levels of EPA and DHA in farmed fish compromising their nutritional quality for consumers. The level of replacement has now reached a critical point where it is having potentially detrimental effects on fish growth, feed efficiency and, importantly, fish health. The key aim of the present research is to develop new cutting-edge feeding strategies to improve the utilisation of sustainable feeds based on plant ingredients and thereby enhance the efficient production of healthy and nutritious farmed fish to benefit UK aquaculture and human consumers.
The nutritional programming concept has been investigated in mammals and gained interest in human health studies. Results indicated that controlled early nutrition can improve growth and development, and reduce incidence or severity of particular health issues. In agriculture, understanding the consequential importance of the impact of early nutrition may help to improve production and mitigate potential problems of new feeds. Previously, we showed that a brief exposure of salmon at first feeding to a diet with very low marine ingredients improved the growth of the fish when they were challenged 3-months later with a similar low marine diet. This effect was not related to feed intake but to improved nutrient utilisation and retention and, specifically, EPA and DHA retention were increased many-fold. The over arching objective of the present study is to determine the potential of nutritional programming to improve the efficiency of sustainable feeds with very low marine (low omega-3) ingredients in long-term studies from first-feeding through to market size with focus on defining not only the molecular and genetic mechanisms involved in nutritional programming but also the effects on fish health quantifying the potential commercial benefits of applying this strategy in UK salmon farming. The proposal is timely and highly relevant and appropriate as it responds to current needs with cutting edge research to improve the utilisation of modern alternative feeds in aquaculture, enhancing production and feed efficiency, while maintaining the health and nutritional quality of farmed fish, delivering greater sustainability and food security.

Technical Summary

Our hypothesis is that nutritional programming can improve and enhance the capability of Atlantic salmon to effectively and efficiently utilise sustainable feeds formulated with very low levels of marine ingredients. The nutritional programming concept involves exposing an animal to a dietary stimulus early in life that alters that individual metabolically and physiologically such that it becomes adapted and better able to respond to a similar nutritional challenge later in life. This concept was first studied and demonstrated in rodents and subsequently applied to both human and agricultural livestock animals and, more recently, was demonstrated to be applicable in some fish species. Recently, we showed that an early nutritional intervention in Atlantic salmon at first feeding using a diet formulated almost entirely with plant proteins and oils, with only a very low level of fishmeal and no fish oil, resulted in fish better adapted to utilise this feed later in life. Thus, when challenged with this diet 3 months later, the fish showed improved growth performance despite having similar feed intake, which was reflected in higher feed efficiency and increased nutrient retention. Specifically, the retentions of the key omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, were greatly increased in fish subjected to the nutritional programming. The overall aim of the present project is to determine the optimal feeding regime to enable nutritional programming in salmon and to assess the long-term effects (18 months) of a short (~1 week) nutritional intervention at first feeding on Atlantic salmon. Growth, feed efficiency and nutritional quality will be assessed and the underlying molecular mechanisms of both metabolism and immune function will provide insights to the processes underpinning the response to initial diet, and to assess the potential for commercial application.

Planned Impact

Outcomes from this research will impact at many levels, including academia, the salmon feed and production industry, consumers and the general public. Primary exploitation will be through development and production of new feed formulations designed to "programme" fish to better utilise sustainable feeds with high levels of replacement of dwindling and expensive marine ingredients, fishmeal and fish oil, currently used in UK aquafeeds. The project will therefore provide industry with strategies with potential to improve the economic viability and sustainability of UK aquaculture. Tangible outcomes will therefore be more effective use of sustainable feeds formulated with low marine ingredients with reduced negative impacts on flesh n-3 LC-PUFA levels in farmed salmon, expandable to all sectors of the aquaculture industry. However, our exploitation strategy will be far wider than just the feed manufacture sector, as we will target the fish production industries as a whole, and increase awareness of the potential of nutritional programming to mitigate fish health and product quality issues associated with sustainable feeds.
There are two main industrial beneficiaries, the UK salmonid farming, and aquaculture feed industries. The aquafeed industry itself will play a key central role in the commercial application and uptake of the feed formulation and feeding strategies to be developed and evaluated, with project partner BioMar taking a lead role. The Universities of Stirling (UoS) and Aberdeen (UoA) have both worked extensively with BioMar for more than a decade, collaborating on several research studies including recent BBSRC IPA and BBSRC-NERC projects, and PhD CASE studentships. Moreover, both UoS and UoA have long and established histories as centres of excellence for fish nutrition and health research and are recognised as trusted sources of independent research. However, UoS and UoA have extensive links with all sectors and key stakeholders in the UK aquaculture industry that involve regular direct contact, engagement and discussion. Thus, we will use these well-established links including the industry-led Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), to engage with potential end-users including major fish farming companies, to ensure industry-wide dissemination and engagement. Currently, UoS and UoA have many joint projects and PhD studentships with industrial partners at all levels of the industry and these direct personal links are ideal for a two-way flow of information, and actively involving and engaging end users, stakeholders and beneficiaries, seeking their input throughout the project. UoS and UoA membership of MASTS (Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland) ensures that the research and inter-disciplinary collaborations it involves strengthen basic and strategic aspects of marine science in the UK. Since MASTS involves both Government and HEIs, knowledge will be rapidly disseminated to relevant stakeholders and used to develop further collaborations and strategic initiatives in this key area of research. Communication of issues relating to human health, such as farmed fish and dietary omega-3 will be effected through our existing contacts directly in Government (e.g. Food Standards Agency, and the Scottish Executive), and through various currently-developing pan-Governmental food security initiatives that we are involved with. Project results will not only be published as usual in scientific peer-reviewed literature (conference proceedings and papers in high impact journals), but also disseminated widely to industry through contributions to trade and professional magazine articles and online sites such as FISHupdate, and the public via Institutional web pages, and social media as well as mainstream media articles in local and national press and interviews.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The research grant started on 1 January 2019 and so it is still too early for the research to have generated any Key Findings. However, previous preliminary research showed that the concept of "nutritional programming" can operate in farmed Atlantic salmon. However, although farmed salmon spend 6-12 months in freshwater, this only represents 2% of overall growth (100g out of 5 Kg), with the bulk of growth occurring after seawater transfer. The aim of the NUTRIPROG project is to determine if the nutritional programming extends into the seawater phase and can have commercially relevant benefits for application in the aquaculture industry. Therefore, this project is very much about the extension of academic interest into industrially relevant and economic benefits.
So far in 2019, a further 6-month trial from first feeding was performed in order to determine the minimum duration of the stimulus phase to induce metabolic programming. The trial used a similar nutritional challenge to that used in the previous preliminary study. The samples from this trial are still being analysed but the results so far suggest that a duration of 3-weeks, as used previously, is still the best option to induce nutritional programming. The large-scale trial is already in progress with eggs obtained in December 2019. These hatched and started first feeding (stimulus phase) in mid-February 2020 with the end of this 3-week phase in early March 2020 (est. 5-6 March).
Exploitation Route The findings from this project may be able to be applied in commercial salmon farming improving the efficiency of the use of sustainable feeds formulated with very low inclusion levels of the finite and limiting marine ingredients, fish meal and fish oil.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

URL https://www.stir.ac.uk/research/hub/contract/349642
 
Description As before with other sections, the project only commenced on 1 January 2019 and so it is too early for any non-academic impacts to be achieved. However, as this project will contribute to increasing the sustainability of sampan farming it is highly likely that there will be significant non-academic impacts that could improve the public perception of salmon farming in the UK.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Horizon 2020 Call: H2020-BG-2018-2020 (Blue Growth) Topic: DT-BG-04-2018-2019 Type of action: IA
Amount € 6,149,963 (EUR)
Funding ID 818367 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2022
 
Description BioMar 
Organisation BioMar
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Consultancy and advice. Project management. Laboratory analyses.
Collaborator Contribution BioMar are an international feed company and have formulated and manufactured all feeds used in nutritional trials (in-kind contribution). Funded PhD studentships and collaborative research
Impact Joint publications. Papers (4 published, one submitted as of Feb 2017. doi:10.1038/srep08104 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aquaculture.2015.03.020 doi:10.1007/s11745-016-4191-4 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0159934 Betancor, M.B., Li K; Sprague M; Sayanova O; Usher S; Måsøval K; Torrissen O; Napier JA; Tocher DR; Olsen RE; (2017) An oil containing EPA and DHA from transgenic Camelina sativa to replace marine fish oil in feeds for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.): Effects on intestinal transcriptome, histology, tissue fatty acid profiles and plasma biochemistry. PLoS ONE, submitted. Conference abstracts (9) Betancor, M.B. Napier, J.A., Bell, J.G., Sayanova, O., Campbell, P.J. and Tocher, D.R. (2014) Replacement of marine fish oil with high-EPA oil from transgenic Camelina sativa in feeds for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Oral presentation, p.5. Proceedings XVI International Symposium on Fish Nutrition & Feeding (ISFNF) 25-30 May 2014, Cairns, Australia. Tocher, D.R., Betancor, M.B., Campbell, P.J. and Napier, J.A. (2014) Oil from a transgenic oilseed as a source of n-3 LC-PUFA in feeds for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Abstract Oral O26, p.41. Proceedings 55th International Conference on the Bioscience of Lipids (ICBL), 23 - 27 June 2014, Aberdeen, Scotland. Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. Betancor, M.B. Napier, J.A., Bell, J.G., Sayanova, O., Campbell, P.J. and Tocher, D.R. (2014) Use of high-EPA oil from transgenic Camelina sativa in feeds for aquaculture. Abstract Oral 01.10.1615.003, p.33-34. 11th Congress of the International Society for the Study of fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL) 28 June - 2 July 2014, Stockholm, Sweden. Betancor, M.B., Sprague, M., Campbell, P.J., Napier, J.A. and Tocher, D.R. (2014) High-EPA oil from transgenic Camelina sativa as a replacement for marine fish oil in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) feeds. Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) Annual Science Meeting, 3 - 5 September, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. Betancor, M.B. Sprague, M., Sayanova, O., Usher, S., Campbell, P.J., Napier, J.A. and Tocher, D.R. (2014) High-EPA oil from transgenic Camelina sativa as a replacement for marine fish oil in feeds for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Abstract (oral) for Aquaculture Europe 2014 "Adding Value", 14-17 October 2014, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain, European Aquaculture Society, p. 1329-1330. Betancor, M.B., Sprague, M., Sayanova, O., Usher, S., Campbell, P.J., Napier, J.A. and Tocher, D.R. (2015) Replacement of marine fish oil with oils from transgenic Camelina sativa in feeds for gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata). Proceedings of the 13th Euro Fed Lipid Congress: Fats, Oils and Lipids: New Challenges in Technology, Quality Control. p.XX. Florence, Italy, 27-30 September, 2015. European Federation for the Science and Technology of Lipids. Tocher, D.R., Betancor, M.B. Sprague, M., Sayanova, O., Usher, S., Campbell, P.J. and Napier, J.A. (2015) Transgenic Camelina sativa as a source of oils to replace marine fish oil in aquaculture feeds. Abstract (oral) for Aquaculture Europe 2015 "Aquaculture, Nature and Society", 20-23 October 2015, Rotterdam, Netherlands, European Aquaculture Society, p. 794-795. Betancor. M.B., Sprague, M., Sayanova, O., Campbell, P.J., Izquierdo, M., Napier, J.A. and Tocher, D.R. (2016) Oils from a transgenic oilseed crop, Camelina sativa, to replace marine fish oil in aquafeeds. Abstract presentation, XVII International Symposium on Fish Nutrition & Feeding (ISFNF) 5-10 June 2016, Sun Valley, Idaho, USA. Betancor, M.B., Li, K., Bardal, T., Sprague, M., Sayanova, O., Usher, S., Måsøval, K., Torrissen, O., Napier, J.A., Tocher, D.R. and Olsen, R.E. (2016) An oil containing EPA and DHA from transgenic Camelina sativa to replace marine fish oil in feeds for Atlantic salmon (salmo salar): effects on intestinal transcriptome. Abstract (oral) for Aquaculture Europe 2016 "Food for Thought", 20-23 September 2016, Edinburgh, Scotland, European Aquaculture Society, p.106-107.
Start Year 2012
 
Description University of Aberdeen 
Organisation University of Aberdeen
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The University of Stirling (UoS) are the lead partner in this project. The project PI (Prof Douglas Tocher) and the UoS team contribute expertise in fish nutrition, salmon biology, and and fish biochemistry and physiology especially in relation to lipid and fatty acid metabolism in salmon. As such the UoS has all the facilities (laboratories) and equipment (HPLC. GC, GCMS, LC-MS PCR, qPCR and Seq) required for biochemical and molecular analyses. The UoS team also brings the background IP in the application of the "nutritional programming" concept in fish having successfully carried out preliminary research into this as a principle consortium member in a recently completed EU FP7 project "ARRAINA" project. This initial study resulted in two publications in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. The UoS will also provide the on-campus and external fish culture facilities required to run the salmon nutritional trials from first feeding through the entire freshwater phase (in temperate aquarium, UoS campus, and at the UoS Buckieburn FW Unit), and after seawater transfer at the UoS Marine Environmental Research laboratory (MERL), Machrihanish, Scotland).
Collaborator Contribution The University of Aberdeen (UoA) are key partners in this project having a global reputation in fish immunology and health, recently investing in forming the 'International Centre for Aquaculture Research and Development', which complements the established world-leading 'Scottish Fish Immunology Research Centre'. The UoA Co-I (Prof SAM Martin) and his team contributing expertise in fish gut microbiome and intestinal immune function and responses particularly in relation to Atlantic salmon. As such the UoA team has all the facilities (laboratories and aquaria) and equipment required for analysing microbiomes and carrying out research into biological, physiological (e.g. FACS at the UoA Iain Fraser Cytometry Centre) and molecular aspects of immune function in salmon including 16S rRNA gene analysis and gene expression analysis (NGS/Illumina MiSeq RNAseq platforms). Sequencing in the project will be carried out at UoA Centre for Genome Enabled Biology.
Impact Too early as project only started on 1 January 2019.
Start Year 2019
 
Description University of Aberdeen 
Organisation University of Aberdeen
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The University of Stirling (UoS) are the lead partner in this project. The project PI (Prof Douglas Tocher) and the UoS team contribute expertise in fish nutrition, salmon biology, and and fish biochemistry and physiology especially in relation to lipid and fatty acid metabolism in salmon. As such the UoS has all the facilities (laboratories) and equipment (HPLC. GC, GCMS, LC-MS PCR, qPCR and Seq) required for biochemical and molecular analyses. The UoS team also brings the background IP in the application of the "nutritional programming" concept in fish having successfully carried out preliminary research into this as a principle consortium member in a recently completed EU FP7 project "ARRAINA" project. This initial study resulted in two publications in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. The UoS will also provide the on-campus and external fish culture facilities required to run the salmon nutritional trials from first feeding through the entire freshwater phase (in temperate aquarium, UoS campus, and at the UoS Buckieburn FW Unit), and after seawater transfer at the UoS Marine Environmental Research laboratory (MERL), Machrihanish, Scotland).
Collaborator Contribution The University of Aberdeen (UoA) are key partners in this project having a global reputation in fish immunology and health, recently investing in forming the 'International Centre for Aquaculture Research and Development', which complements the established world-leading 'Scottish Fish Immunology Research Centre'. The UoA Co-I (Prof SAM Martin) and his team contributing expertise in fish gut microbiome and intestinal immune function and responses particularly in relation to Atlantic salmon. As such the UoA team has all the facilities (laboratories and aquaria) and equipment required for analysing microbiomes and carrying out research into biological, physiological (e.g. FACS at the UoA Iain Fraser Cytometry Centre) and molecular aspects of immune function in salmon including 16S rRNA gene analysis and gene expression analysis (NGS/Illumina MiSeq RNAseq platforms). Sequencing in the project will be carried out at UoA Centre for Genome Enabled Biology.
Impact Too early as project only started on 1 January 2019.
Start Year 2019
 
Description School visits (Stirling) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact In the last two years, December 2017 and November/December 2018, the Nutrition Research Group (NRG) of them Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling (IoA/UoS) have run events at local schools. As part of the IoA/UoS's Schools outreach in partnership with Business in the Community Scotland's 'Food for Thought' programme, we have visited five primary schools to date within the Stirlingshire area to educate children on the role of seafood and healthy eating. In 2017, Balfron Primary School (01/12/17) and St Ninians Primary School (06/12/17) were visited and, in 2018, Callander Primary School (21/11/18), Newton Primary School (22/11/18) and Bannockburn High School (07/12/18), all in Stirlingshire, Scotland were visited. These events are not only beneficial to the children, with the hope of changing their eating habits as well as attracting them into STEM based subjects, but also on a personal level by giving members of the Nutrition team the opportunity to develop communication and teaching skills to a much younger audience
Specifically, the enterprise is a three-way partnership between the Scottish Government, Education Scotland and BITC Scotland (Business in the Community) that aims to support teachers in providing high quality food education. The main purpose of our visits was to highlight the health benefits of eating fish which, of course, is focussed on "omega-3" and the importance of fish and seafood in providing this and how the research we are carrying out in The Institute of aquaculture, University of stirring is aiming to maintain and improve the contents of omega-3 in farmed fish like salmon. Children were invited to see and hold as well as learn about some of the different seafood species, both farmed and wild, available to consumers from UK waters and beyond. In addition, children got to learn about key organs and processes via a fish dissection practical, found out why eating fish is good for us and why good nutrition is also important for farmed fish, as well as getting to try some smoked salmon on oatcakes - some of whom have never tried fish before!
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019