AquaBounty Farm Fed Genetically Engineered Salmon: Raised Environmentally Sound

AquaBounty believes that aquaculture can, and must, do better.
AquAdvantage Salmon is better for the environment & consumers.
AquaBounty Founding Idea, Modern Genetics + Land-Based Aquaculture

In 1993, AquaBounty’s CEO had the idea of pairing the two revolutionary technologies. The innovative faster growing AquAdvantage Salmon, which would shorten production cycles by half and drastically reduce feed costs, could finally make land-based fish farming economically viable.

Rethinking Fish Farming

The Greenest Fish Farming Method—Land-Based Aquaculture

Sundsfjord tank for raising AquaBounty Salmon, farm fed and genetically modifiedThe second innovation driving AquaBounty’s vision is the development of land-based Recirculating Aquaculture Systems, or RAS for short. While farming salmon in sea cages is less expensive and less technologically complex than a land-based farm, land-based salmon farming eliminates many of the environmental problems with net-pen farms. Sea cages are susceptible to a number of hazards such as violent storms, predators, harmful algal blooms, jellyfish attacks, and the transmission of pathogens and parasites from wild fish populations passing close to the sea cages. All of these hazards can cause significant fish losses over the course of the 32-36-month production cycle.

Some fish farmers, research scientists and engineers looked at the technology used in public aquarium facilities and human waste-water treatment facilities with the idea that the technology could be applied to large-scale commercial seafood production on land. Over the last 30 years, the technology to farm fish on land has come a long way. So much so that some fish farmers are developing large RAS facilities to grow a variety of species, from salmon, trout and sturgeon to perch, shrimp and even lobster.

aquabounty--salmon steaks Salmon farmers have used RAS technology to raise their fish from eggs to the time when they can go into the sea, normally about a year. The salmon grow to market size in the sea cages for another two years. The reason that salmon farmers did not grow-out their salmon to market size in the RAS facilities was the cost. AquaBounty’s innovative AquAdvantage Salmon, with its fast growth rate, shortens the production cycle from 32-36 months to 16-18 months, making land-based salmon farming economically possible.

Land-based salmon farming contains the fish in tanks inside facilities that resemble warehouses, eliminating any interactions between the farmed fish and the external environment. The only things coming out of the building are harvested salmon on their way to the processing plant, a trickle of waste-water that can be used by vegetable farmers and greenhouse growers, and solids filtered out of the recycled water that can be used for fertilizer by gardeners.

Read More About: Recirculating Aquaculture Systems 

Recirculating Aquaculture Systems: New Technology in a Thriving Industry (Fish 2.0 Market Report)

Rethinking aquaculture to boost resource efficiency (Danish Water Forum)

New-York-Times-LogoIn early December 2015 Nina Fedoroff, the Evan Pugh professor emerita at Penn State University who served as science and technology adviser to the secretary of state from 2007 to 2010, commented in a New York Times Opinion Page piece that consumers will benefit tremendously from the strides made by AquaBounty in the Aquaculture farming of Salmon.

“Guilt free” salmon for the for good eating after AquaBounty has invested “20 years developing and testing this faster-growing salmon that will require less feed to bring it to a marketable size. It can be farmed economically in closed, on-land facilities that recirculate water and don’t dump waste into the sea. Since the fish live in clean, managed water, they don’t get diseases that are spread among caged fish in the sea. And the growing facilities could be closer to markets, cutting shipping costs.”

Federaoff notes that the “concern about AquaBounty’s salmon centers around several bits of added DNA, taken from another fish, that let the salmon grow continuously, not just seasonally.”  She concludes this doesn’t make them “unnatural” but gets to the proper size on less feed while also commenting that being an anti-GMO critic is an industry all by itself with good money for being on that side of the argument.  She can’t wait to have the final product.

The Promise of Green Biotechnology in Aquaculture

In 1989, Dr. Garth Fletcher and his research team at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada discovered that they could use advanced molecular genetics to significantly increase the speed of growth of an Atlantic salmon — instead of the three years it takes to grow to market size, Fletcher’s variety took only 18 months.

AquaBounty Growth Performance Charts for Farm Fed Genetically Engineered Salmon

Low Impact Fish Farming

At AquaBounty, we believe the future of sustainable seafood is on land. By raising our disease-free, antibiotic-free salmon away from the ocean, we eliminate the risk of escapes impacting native fish populations AND the risk of pollutants or contaminants harming marine ecosystems. Housed inside specially designed buildings, our salmon will be raised in optimized conditions. Total control of the water coming in and going out allows for removal of wastes (sludge) and recycling of greater than 95% of the water used, and water discharges that can be used by other enterprises such as hydroponic produce farmers.

Conserving Wild Fish Populations

Salmon migrating upstream in the United States

Aquaculture feed relies on wild fish to deliver the Omega-3 fatty acids that make fish so healthy to eat. Salmon is already one of the world’s most efficient protein producers. Our AquAdvantage Salmon grows to market-size using 25 percent less feed than any Atlantic salmon on the market today. This makes an already efficient protein producer even better because it requires less wild fish to be converted into salmon feed.

Reducing Carbon Emissions

When farmed in land-based facilities close to major metropolitan areas, AquaBounty’s salmon will travel only a short distance to the consumer. Not only will this make our salmon the freshest fish on the market, it will significantly cut the transportation distance from farm to table. Unlike salmon imported from Norway and Chile that travels thousands of miles by airfreight and then trucked to markets, AquaBounty’s salmon will have a carbon footprint that is 23 to 25 times less.

AquaBounty Ownership

AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. is a publicly traded company whose largest shareholder is Intrexon Corporation (NYSE: XON). Intrexon is a synthetic biology company with diverse interests in medicine, food and agriculture, and fuels and the environment. AquaBounty is an aquaculture company focused on improving productivity in commercial aquaculture, a $144 billion industry and the fastest-growing segment of the worldwide food industry. The Company’s objective is the application of biotechnology to ensure the availability of high quality seafood to meet global consumer demand.

AquaBounty is developing products to address critical production constraints in the most popular farmed species, focusing initially on salmon, trout, and tilapia. Its AquAdvantage® fish program is based upon a single, specific molecular modification in fish that results in more rapid growth in early development.

FAQ: Consumer Benefits of Land-Based Aquaculture Systems

Is there a need for a faster-growing fish?

By 2020, the global demand for animal protein is projected to be 20 million tonnes per year. AquAdvantage® Salmon will help address the need for healthy protein by producing more fish in less time compared to current salmon farming techniques. AquAdvantage® Salmon can be grown in contained, land-based facilities which offer many environmental advantages compared to conventional cultivation methods.

Don’t consumers already have enough salmon?

Salmon is a popular seafood choice, not only for taste but for the well-documented health benefits. This has increased demand for farmed and wild salmon products that the aquaculture industry and capture fisheries will not be able to meet.

Are farmed salmon a healthy alternative to wild salmon?

Atlantic salmon is a great source of heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. AquAdvantage® eggs are designed for growth in land-based salmon hatcheries and grow-out facilities that will provide high-quality facility management and control. There is a lower likelihood for the introduction and spread of disease, and a corresponding reduction in the need for disease treatment. In addition,  AquAdvantage® Salmon do not contain toxins.

Environmental Benefits of Land-Based Aquaculture Systems

Can fast-growing salmon help reduce pressures on dwindling wild fisheries?

Many of the world’s fisheries are being harvested at their maximum sustainable yield while some are in danger of collapse. A 2006 study published in Science predicted the loss of all commercially captured species of fish by 2048 if fishing practices were not altered and fisheries were not better managed. Yet fishing continues as the demand for seafood increases. The vast majority of Atlantic salmon sold in the U.S. is farmed. Many American wild salmon populations are in steep decline, so much so that commercial fishing runs on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts have been closed. By providing a ready source of faster-growing fish, salmon grown from AquAdvantage® eggs can help reduce pressure on wild fish stocks.

Won’t the demand for farm salmon feeds offset any protection of wild fish stocks?

Accelerated growth means shorter production cycles and more efficient use of feed. The feed conversion rate for AquAdvantage® Salmon is approximately 20-25% better than other farmed salmon. Additionally, there are emerging technologies in the salmon feed industry that use more sustainable foodstuffs for salmon feeds, reducing the amount of fishmeal and fish oil used.

Does this fish have any impact on carbon emissions?

Because fresh and frozen fish are flown to markets all over the world, seafood has a large carbon footprint. AquAdvantage® Salmon are designed for land-based facilities that can be built closer to consumers to reduce the need for energy-intensive air freight shipping and transportation.

Isn’t fish farming bad for the environment?

The contained, land-based systems used by customers of AquAdvantage® eggs are endorsed by most environmental groups as a more environmentally-friendly and responsible alternative to traditional sea-cage farming of salmon.

Won’t the fish escape and breed with native populations?

Fish grown from AquAdvantage® eggs are all female and sterile, making it impossible for them to breed among themselves and with other salmon. In addition, FDA approval requires them to be grown in physically contained land-based systems, further reducing any potential impact on wild populations.

Business Benefits of Land-Based Aquaculture Systems

How do aquaculture producers benefit?

Faster growth and greater feed efficiency mean a more efficient use of capital, reduced feed costs and less time to market. Better economics makes interest in land-based aquaculture feasible, which leads to better bio-security, reduced disease risk and the opportunity to grow salmon closer to consumer markets.

How do restaurants benefit?

The majority of seafood consumed in the U.S. is in restaurants. The AquAdvantage® Salmon will help increase domestic supply to satisfy growing demand with a dependable, environmentally responsible, high quality product.

How does the American economy benefit?

Aquaculture provides opportunities for U.S. jobs. Today the U.S. imports over 97% of the Atlantic salmon sold to consumers. The introduction of land-based salmon farms in the U.S. would spur investment in this industry in our country.