New study shows farmed fish grow better with fungi produced from Nordic forestry by-products

Finnish biotech startup Enifer has contributed to a new study on farmed salmon that was done in collaboration with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). The study utilised Enifer’s PEKILO®Aqua mycoprotein, and it was conducted by a group of researchers led by Professor Margareth Øverland.

The study shows that juvenile salmon growing in freshwater fed with PEKILO®Aqua mycoprotein had a significant activation in their immune system and grew better as the feed was more efficiently converted into the fish.

“For the first time, the studies carried out at NMBU show that our PEKILO®Aqua mycoprotein not only provides fish with protein, but actually brings clear added benefits to fish health and growth compared to conventional proteins like soya. These benefits arise from the unique composition of our fungal protein. The fact that PEKILO®Aqua can be produced sustainably, competitively and close to the fish farmers makes it particularly attractive to industry. In this study, we used Norwegian forest industry by-products to produce feed for Norwegian salmon,” says Joosu Kuivanen, Chief Operating Officer at Enifer.

According to Statista, humans consumed 160 million metric tons of farmed and wild fish in 2021. Aquaculture production has overtaken wild fish catch and is the most rapidly expanding food production sector, requiring huge amounts of new high-quality protein feeds. Increasing the farmed fish’s immune system is vital for fish farmers, who struggle with a variety of infectious agents that can cause different levels of deformations or even death in large quantities.

Enifer’s proprietary technology can upcycle by-products from diverse agri-, food- and forest industry processes into its PEKILO® mycoprotein, which consists of about 65% protein, 15% beta-glucan, 10% fats and minerals, and has a high concentration of vitamin B. For example, beta-glucan is added separately to the current aquafeeds, which is an unnecessary step if PEKILO®Aqua is used.

Soybeans are the most affordable and commonly used protein source in aquafeed today, but the price of using soybeans is high for the environment. Soybean cultivation increases deforestation, and shipping it all across the world significantly impacts the sustainability of the supply chain. It also makes the whole industry heavily dependent on a few selected production countries and their stability. Global soybean production is steadily growing, with estimates by the US Department of Agriculture stating that this running season will produce 403 million tonnes of soybean.

By comparison, PEKILO®Aqua mycoprotein has a lower carbon footprint than imported soybean, as it is produced without using new agricultural land and very little water, offering a sustainable and self-sufficient alternative for the European market.

“The world’s protein demand is growing, and farmed fish is the most sustainable and healthy animal protein for human consumption today. By lowering the environmental impact of the supply chain of aquafeed while improving the growing conditions of fish, we can make the whole industry more sustainable. Together with our partners in academia, we continue to research the health benefits of PEKILO® mycoprotein and are looking forward to bringing our solution to market from aquafeed to petfood and all the way to human consumption,” Enifer’s CEO Simo Ellilä concludes.