Joint industry initiative aims to develop the feed of the future: Insects and mussels to replace wild-caught fish and soya


Researchers, farmers, and actors from the entire food chain are testing the feed of the future for poultry, laying hens, fish, and pork. One of the ingredients is insects that has eaten waste from the food industry. Foto: Roxen Communication/Axfoundation

Researchers, farmers, and actors from the entire food chain are testing the feed of the future for poultry, laying hens, fish, and pork. One of the ingredients is insects that has eaten waste from the food industry. Foto: Roxen Communication/Axfoundation

Press release 04-18-2023: Axfoundation and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) are bringing together practitioners and researchers from across Sweden to develop the feed of the future for poultry, laying hens, fish, and pigs. The ambition is for unsustainable ingredients in conventional feed, such as imported soya and wild-caught fish, to be replaced with more resource-efficient and circular ingredients that have a significantly lower environmental and climate impact. Particularly interesting ingredients currently being explored include insects that eat food waste, mycoprotein produced using residual flows from forestry, and blue mussels that clean the Baltic Sea.

“We have already proven that it is possible to farm rainbow trout on an insect-based feed. This pilot feed proved to have up to 70% lower carbon dioxide emissions than the regular feed on the market. We are now scaling up significantly with even more ingredients and are advancing the feed of the future to produce poultry, eggs, fish, and pork. In the long term, the ambition is for this type of feed comprising resource-efficient and circular ingredients, to be used instead of the conventional feed of today,” says Christian Sjöland, Project Manager for Future Food at Axfoundation.

The food sector accounts for approximately 1/3 of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Animal foods have the greatest impact on the environment and the climate, and feed is in turn the major source of emissions. In Sweden, feed represents as much as 50-85% of the climate emissions from fish, pigs, poultry, and eggs. Conventional fish feed on the global market today often consists of wild-caught fish, which increases pressure on the world’s oceans. In addition, soya is usually included, a crop that drives rainforest deforestation and threatens biodiversity on a global basis. At the same time as animals are eating food that humans could eat directly, tons of food is thrown away every year by food manufacturers, stores, restaurants, and households.

“It’s a huge waste of resources to let the chickens, fish, and pigs eat soya from Brazil and fish from the Pacific Ocean, while tons of food is being thrown away every year. Food waste can instead be used to farm insects, which is excellent animal food. There are also plenty of other unattractive raw materials that could be included in animal feed. Our food should simply not eat our food,” says Madeleine Linins Mörner, Program Director for Future Food at Axfoundation.

The Feed of the Future project brings together researchers and actors from throughout the entire food chain, including Swedish farmers, feed manufacturers, food wholesalers, restaurants, and grocery trade actors. The ambition is to set up a pilot production for feed and test within two years the sale of poultry, pigs, fish, and eggs from laying hens fed lower climate impact feed that uses ingredients that benefit biodiversity.
Feed ingredients that will be tested include mycoprotein produced using residual flows from the forestry industry, and blue mussels from the Baltic Sea that purify the water from nitrogen and phosphorus and thus contribute to reduced eutrophication. Tests will also be conducted on the residual product from the production of concentrate from the Swedish broad bean. In addition, insects such as the American black soldier fly and mealworm fed food waste from the food industry will be evaluated.

“There is enormous potential in allowing today’s waste to be converted into high-quality protein! However, at present, we are not allowed to use the large biodegradable residual flows that exist in society, such as food waste from restaurants and households. The current legislation puts a stop to that. This makes it impossible to achieve an effective circulation of waste back into the food chain. What we are now doing in the project is developing systems for handling permitted residual flows, for example, for insects, to be ready to scale up once the legislation catches up,” says Cecilia Lalander, Associate Professor in Environmental Engineering who researches technologies for safe recycling of resources from waste at SLU.

Alongside Axfoundation and SLU, project partners include ATEA Sverige, Axfood, Boden Municipality, NovaPro, Ekobolaget, Ecoloop, Ecopelag, Fiskhallen Sorunda, Grönsakshallen Sorunda, Johannas Stadsodlingar, the producer organization Kustfiskarna Bottenhavet, Kötthallen Sorunda, Lilla Grödby Lantbruk, Martin & Servera, Plant Protein Production, Ragn-Sells, School of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Meal Science Örebro University on Campus Grythyttan, RISE, Stjärnägg, Svenska Foder, Tebrito, Viking Fågel, Älvdalslax. The project is partially financed by Sweden’s Innovation Agency Vinnova.

10 facts about feed

  1. The food system accounts for approximately 1/3 of the world’s total climate emissions. The single biggest source of greenhouse gases within the food system is the production of livestock, including the production of feed (IPCC, CBD, WWF).
  2. Almost 80% of the agricultural land globally is used to feed animals that produce food (Our World in Data).
  3. The feed accounts for 54% of the climate footprint in Swedish pig production, 75% of Swedish chicken production, and 75–83% of Norwegian salmon production. This makes feed one of the single biggest challenges to address to bring about a change (RISE, SINTEF).
  4. Conventional fish feed often consists of imported input goods, such as wild-caught fish and soya, for example from Brazil. The main ingredients in Swedish chicken feed are often wheat and certified soya. The composition of Swedish pig feed often includes by-products from the dairy and ethanol industries, as well as wheat and barley. Certified imported soya is also often used in Swedish organic pig feed (RISE / Five tons of green fish).
  5. Swedish feed primarily uses certified soya that must be responsibly produced, but there is an extensive global problem with non-certified soya. It is a crop that is often grown in ways that contribute to the destruction of rainforests.
  6. Forage fishing today contributes to overfishing. On a global basis, around 23% of the fish caught is for purposes other than food, primarily animal feed (FAO).
  7. Along with overfishing, the conversion of rainforests to agriculture for feed and changed land use are two of the biggest causes of climate change and global loss of biodiversity (FAO/IPBES).
  8. Approximately 900,000 tons of food are thrown away every year by food manufacturers, shops, restaurants, and households in Sweden. On a global basis, food waste is currently responsible for 6% of greenhouse gas emissions – three times as much as the total global air traffic annually (Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Our World in Data). Almost half of all food waste from the consumption stage goes to biogas and biofertilizer on fields, the rest becomes heat and electricity (Swedish Environmental Protection Agency).
  9. The linear food system contributes to unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and the leaching of nutrients out into the Baltic Sea, which contributes to eutrophication. Food waste could instead be used more resource-efficiently by being recirculated and used in the food chain in the form of animal feed (Axfoundation).
  10. The project Five Tons of Green Fish has demonstrated that rainbow trout can be fed insect-based feed, where the insects in turn have eaten vegetable waste and bread scraps from the food industry. The fish feed has a 30-70% lower climate footprint than conventional fish feed. (Axfoundation/SLU, Mistra Food Future, SINTEF).



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