CFIA approves camelina oil for use in Atlantic salmon feed

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has approved mechanically-extracted camelina oil as a feed ingredient for farmed salmon and trout, Genome Atlantic says in a release.

That paves the way for the oilseed to serve as a new rotation option for Maritime potato farmers.

Camelina sativa, or false flax, is a hardy oilseed plant that is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein and antioxidants. It can be used as a vegetable oil for human consumption and as an ingredient or supplement in some animal feeds.

Fish feed manufacturers have also explored the use of crop-based oilseeds such as camelina as substitutes for wild-sourced fish oils and proteins currently used in fish feeds.

A recently completed large-scale study of camelina oil managed by Genome Atlantic, a non-profit corporation set up to help Atlantic Canada benefit from new technologies, with support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)’s Atlantic Innovation Fund, found camelina to be an excellent match to the fatty acid composition required in the diets of farmed fish, the release said.

“Genome Atlantic and its partners have transformed a tiny seed into a big opportunity, creating an innovative, alternative solution with long-term benefits to industry,” said Navdeep Bains, minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and minister responsible for ACOA in the release.

“This kind of work is at the heart of positioning Canada as a world-leading innovation economy,” he said.

Aquaculture scientist Chris Parrish of Memorial University, one of the study’s principal researchers, said camelina oil has characteristics that make it a particularly promising alternative in fish diets.

“Among the oils that can be used to replace fish oil in aquafeeds, camelina is one of the few with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. While these omega-3 fatty acids are different to those present in fish oils, they enhance the ability of fish to synthesize the healthful long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for their optimal growth. This, in turn, ensures a healthful fillet for human consumers,” Parrish said.

Another of the study’s principal researchers, Claude Caldwell of Dalhousie University, said scientists found camelina oil to be sufficiently nutritious to replace all the fish oil in feeds, as well as some of the ground fish meal.

“The use of wild-sourced fish to feed the farmed fish is not sustainable either ecologically or economically. Camelina could be a viable alternative,” he said. Considering that aquaculture companies spend 50 to 70 per cent of their budgets on feed, finding a high-quality, lower cost source of oil could mean significant savings.

While the CFIA’s recent approval only covers camelina oil, Caldwell and his Dalhousie team are currently conducting feeding trials for the CFIA on camelina meal.

“Camelina meal can’t entirely replace fish meal used in fish feeds, but it could replace some of that meal,” he said.

Camelina is grown in many parts of the world, including North America. Caldwell suggests camelina could be a good rotation crop for potatoes, making it a potentially viable option for farmers in Maritime Canada.

“There are about 200,000 acres of potatoes planted in this region. Camelina could be a successful rotation crop that could open new markets for farmers while making the aquaculture industry healthier and more sustainable,” said Caldwell.

The Camelina Project also received support from The Research and Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (RDC), the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the University of Saskatchewan, Memorial University, Dalhousie University, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Minas Seeds, Cooke Aquaculture, and Genome Prairie.

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