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Tuesday
Oct282014

Waiter, there's a fly in my fish...

Insect Meal Could be the Future of Animal Feed

This article appeared on The Fish Site on 27 October 2014

 

US - As demand for meat, milk and dairy products grows, the issue of what to feed livestock becomes more critical because of the limited availability of natural resources, ongoing climate change issues and competition between human food, animal feed and biofuel for land and water.

Insect meals may be part of the solution, according to a new FAO study published in the latest issue of the scientific journal Animal Feed Science and Technology.

Livestock production is resource hungry: It occupies 75 per cent of all agricultural land, including crop and pasture land, and consumes eight per cent of global human water use, mainly for the irrigation of feed crops.

FAO and the Association Française de Zootechnie in Paris have conducted a review of hundreds of scientific studies on the potential use of insects as animal feed, a field that is still in its infancy.

The review covers five major groups of insects – black solider fly, the house fly, mealworm beetles, locusts, grasshoppers and crickets, and silkworms – and their distribution, rearing, environmental impact, nutritional attributes, constraints and their potential use as alternate feed.

“A quest for new sources of feed for livestock is a must,” said the study’s lead author Harinder Makkar, Animal Production Officer in the FAO Animal Production and Health Division. “This review of the literature is valuable because it is expected to open new areas for research and new avenues for large-scale use of insect products as animal feed.”

“Insects have many advantages over other feeds,” he added. “They grow and reproduce easily, have high feed conversion efficiency since they are cold blooded and can be reared on bio-waste. One kilo of insect biomass can be produced from around 2 kilos of waste.”

Nutritional Content

The crude protein content of the insects studied is 42-63 per cent and oil content up to 36 per cent. Some of the literature shows that insect meals, when added to animal feed, can replace 25 to 100 per cent of soymeal or fishmeal in the feed, depending on the animal species.

Mr Makkar noted that fishmeal production is no longer rising as oceans reach their harvest limits, and that sources of soy for cattle feed are also limited.

Some insect meals do not contain all nutrients in sufficient amounts needed by the livestock, for example, calcium, which is needed by growing animals and laying hens. Essential amino acids such as lysine and methionine are also deficient in some insect meals. Such nutrients would have to be added to the feed. Alternatively an “ideal” protein meal for livestock diets can be prepared by mixing meals from different insect species.

Other issues such as the contamination of feed by pathogens, pesticides, mycotoxins or heavy metals such as lead in the insects will have to be addressed.

Tests have found that pigs, poultry and fish will eat feed that contains insect meal from the five insect groups mentioned above. The rest of the feed is composed of carbohydrates including grains or agroindustrial byproducts like cassava residue or molasses.

In the case of feed suitable for ruminants like cattle, the scientific literature appeared to have only studied silkworm meal, which it found contained valuable protein and amino acids.

There are economic spinoffs from insect-based feed production. For low-oil feed, the unwanted oil in the insect meal could be extracted and used for various applications including biodiesel.

- See more at: http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/24396/insect-meal-could-be-the-future-of-animal-feed#sthash.FyvrbItC.dpuf

Monday
Oct272014

Can Australia be China's food bowl?

ARE WE LOOKING AT THE WRONG OPPORTUNITY???


Andrew Forrest's Australia Sino Hundred Year Agricultural and Food Safety Partnership wants to position Australia as China's food bowl.

The numbers, and Australia's production capacity, don't support this however - but there are certainly some opportunities we should be continuing to pursue.

 

Here are my thoughts...

 

ARE WE LOOKING AT THE WRONG OPPORTUNITY???

27 October 2014

 

Andrew Forrest has taken what he describes as “the first step” in turning Australia into China’s food bowl by announcing formation of “The Australia Sino Hundred Year Agricultural and Food Safety Partnership”, or, more sensibly, the ASA 100.

According to the ANZ Bank, “The aim of the ASA 100 is to position Australia as the primary food and agricultural product solution to China’s long-term food security and natural clothing needs”.

Without denigrating the initiative (although it is hardly a first step in exploiting the huge opportunity presented by China’s growing appetite), I wonder if the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had a quiet smile when the two met earlier this year and Twiggy floated the concept.

My bet is that Premier Li would understand the reality – that Australia couldn’t possibly play a major role in solving China’s food security requirements by producing food, let alone become the “primary food and agricultural product solution”.

Australia can’t, and no one country can.

As Dr Craig Emerson pointed out at the ACBC Australia China Food Summit a few months ago in Sydney, Australia’s capacity to become China’s food bowl is a common misconception.

A commonly-quoted figure suggests that Australia exports enough food to feed 60 million people.  That is 4.4% of China’s population – assuming we only exported to China.  Australian agricultural product exports to China have doubled in the past five years to $7.3 billion in 2013, however, according to the Australian Food and Grocery Council, over the past 20 years Australia's share of China's food imports has more than halved to just 3.3 per cent, with our loss being picked up by “more aggressive and better organised competitors” such as France, Indonesia and New Zealand which have grown their share of the Chinese market. Our share of China's food imports contracted from 7.17 per cent in 1994 to just 3.34 per cent in 2012.

IF we could double our current food export capacity, AND export it all to China, we would theoretically be able to 120 million people – less than 9% of China’s population.

Could we double our food production capacity though?   A number of factors suggest we couldn’t.

Doubling Australia’s farm production by 2050 equates to a productivity boost of 2.5 per cent a year – which is highly unlikely given the current status quo.

Whilst some regions will see increased productivity from climate change, due to different weather patterns, Australia could see a 10 percent drop in the production of wheat, beef, dairy and sugar by 2030 unless we update the way we farm.  So we’re behind the 8-ball before we start.

I’ll use wheat as an example…

Australia is the fourth largest wheat exporter, but in real terms we account for only 3.4% of total global wheat production: There is a suggestion that we could increase production from current levels of close to 20 million tonnes to over 200 million tonnes – but the requirements to achieve this are completely unrealistic.  We would need to clear massive amounts of land and redeploy all water and all land presently used for agriculture exclusively to wheat production – crippling the rest of our food production industry.  On top of that, we would need to raise productivity from 1.5 tonnes per hectare to 4.4 tonnes per hectare.

Our track record suggests that this is almost impossible.  From the late 1970s to the 1990s Australian agricultural productivity grew at almost 2 per cent per year, but according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) there has been little growth since then.  Our last doubling of productivity took 25 years.

Recent stagnation in productivity growth is, in part, due to the drought conditions over the past decade, but we can’t just blame it all on the drought when our commitment to agricultural research has fallen from a peak in the 1970s of five per cent of the value of agricultural production, to just above three per cent in 2007.

In a global context, at 0.5% of GDP, Australia’s government spends much less on R&D and innovation than the OECD average of 0.8% and much less than the leaders (Finland and South Korea – both 1.1% of GDP). Australia ranks 28th out of 34 OECD countries for Government R&D funding.  Fortunately our R&D sector is propped up by Australia’s corporate sector which, according to Austrade, increased its expenditure on R&D at a compound annual growth rate of 12.6 per cent from 2000/01 to 2011/12, well above Australia’s nominal GDP growth rate of 6.9 per cent

This means that Australia’s Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D sits at 2.2 per cent of GDP - above that of Singapore, Canada, UK and China.

The problem is, according to the National Farmers Federation, agricultural R&D represents only 2 per cent of the total government R&D spend.  In February 2013 The Australian reported that “…as agricultural research spending has dropped since 2000, the ability of Australia's farmers to produce more food has stagnated.  A joint research paper produced by Charles Sturt University and the Australian Farm Institute “links falling farm productivity between 2000 and 2010 with cuts to public funding of agricultural research from $1 billion to $716 million in 2008, followed by a further $150m to last year.”

Look at the cuts.  The Australian Government has, in its last budget, cut funding to

  • the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) ($114.8m);
  • the Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) program($80m);
  • the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) ($11m);
  • the Australian Research Council.  ARC) ($74.9m); and
  • Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) ($7.8m).
  • Various Industry support and innovation programs ($845.6m)

These cuts are real, and with the passage of the appropriation bills in late June, most are already in place. Research programs are already being cut back or stopped.

State Governments have done the same thing, including Queensland, where 550 out of 2,500 jobs within its Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) were reportedly axed and numerous research programs were closed, and South Australia, where the last state budget saw net funding to Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) fall from $89 million to $77m, including $4m less for the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).  The sprinkling of good news was the allocation of $2.6m (over four years) for two food and wine clusters, and half a million plus to enhance food trade with China in the coming year.

To the Federal Government’s defense, the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry’s (DAFF) modest budget was increased this year from $1.6 billion to $1.9 billion, and a new Fresh Produce Safety Centre has been established in Australia, the first of its type, to research the safety of fresh food products.

Our performance has affected our reputation.  Back in mid-2012 the Australasian chief of Kraft Foods, the world's second-largest food company, said that Australia is not seen as a high-value food innovator, but as “a critical supplier of food commodities''. 

I hear what she was saying, but in China’s case, a 3.34 percent share of total food imports hardly makes us a “critical supplier”.

So, we’re up against climate chance, stagnant productivity growth, and significant cuts to food and agricultural research funding.

I think we’re solving the wrong problem.

Australia shouldn’t even be talking about becoming China’s food bowl, let alone spending money on trying to achieve this, and some of the biggest players in the industry think the same way. 

Rabobank, the world’s largest food and agribusiness specialist bank, recommended in its Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper submission that Australia should focus on developing high-value produce and move away from competing in highly commoditized global markets.

Kraft Foods argues that we should be focusing on manufactured food and that becoming a farm-gate supplier would threaten jobs, our own food security and even the national economy.  There are two sides to every argument, and I’m one of those people who prefers to make pasta sauce with tomatoes that I’ve peeled myself rather than those that have been peeled and pre-cooked in a factory and shipped in a can.  China can buy tinned food from anywhere, but they can only buy top-quality fresh Australian food from one place.

I think we’d be smart to concentrate on exporting fresh and farm-gate produce. 

Australia can't solve China's food security issues, and in fact I would argue that we don’t, and won’t, play any significant role in China's food security equation.  What we can do, what we are starting to do, is excel in the provision of high quality, safe, premium food products.  Australia has a solid reputation for producing clean, green, health and safe food, and we should be leveraging this to its fullest potential.

I think we would be even smarter though, and have a bigger impact on food security in China, our region, and globally, if we redoubled our investment in farming productivity and food innovation.  We should be exporting our expertise and collaborating with other countries that have developed their own expertise. This is a two-way street, and would help address food security concerns (those of our own as well as our global neighbours) far more than any additional food we could produce.

Australia is cutting funding to an already under-funded food and agriculture research community, and now backing a program that can never achieve its stated objective of becoming China’s “primary” food bowl. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a huge supporter of the concept of increasing our export trade with China.  The attention being given to the China opportunity is welcomed and timely, but it will only really mean something if the Governments and corporates put their money where their respective mouths are.

The highest priority of Twiggy’s new ASA 100 should be, in my opinion, to trigger a pivot by the Federal and State Governments and have them dramatically ramp up investment in, and support for, research into food and agricultural technologies, and the commercialization existing and new Australian expertise.  This must include serious incentives for Australian businesses to invest in the research and production sectors.

I’m worried that the current aim of the ASA 100 is distracting Government and business from the real opportunity – the provision of high-quality premium foods for China’s upper and growing middle class, and the provision of Australian food and agricultural expertise for Chinese producers.

We should be leveraging our reputation for clean, green, healthy and safe, and leveraging our expertise and experience, instead of trying to become a bulk supplier.

I have to ask the question:  Is the ASA100 really looking at the right opportunity?

 

About the author:

Gareth Lott is a member of the Australia China Business Council and sits on the ACBC Agribusiness subcommittee in South Australia, he owns a china-focused aquaculture company, and, through his family business, operates several small-scale farms in regional South Australia.  Gareth is also a member of the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australasia Representative of the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture in Abu Dhabi. This article is Gareth’s personal opinion only and is not endorsed by any of the above organizations.

 

© October 2014 Gareth Lott

E&OE


Tuesday
Sep092014

the need for foreign investment in Australian agriculture

This article was published on the Future Directions International website on Monday 8th September 2014.  It was written by Jack Di Nunzio, FDI Research Analyst, Global Food and Water Crises Research Programme

 

Unlocking our potential - the need for foreign investment in Australian agriculture

 

Key Points

Available statistics and recent reports suggest Australian agriculture is experiencing an increase in foreign investment.

Foreign investors, in particular State-owned enterprises (SOEs), are looking to Australia for long-term, low risk agricultural assets and as a channel to supply their growing populations with high quality produce.   

Such investment is essential for Australian agriculture in the absence of domestic capital sources and government support.

Foreign capital brings improved access to overseas markets, needed to meet export growth targets, and can build Australia’s food processing capabilities to ensure domestic food security.

Government policy should focus on balancing the sector’s need for substantial foreign investment while improving the transparency of foreign involvement in key industries.

 

Summary

Foreign investment has reemerged as a prominent issue in Australian agriculture. In line with rising global investment trends, SOEs and foreign multinationals have shown greater interest in Australian agricultural assets. This has led to calls for improved transparency and possible restriction of foreign capital. The greater agricultural community and economists alike, however, champion this influx as an essential tool for the sector’s development in the absence of domestic capital.

Foreign investment - in its many forms -will shape the future sustainability of the sector, which is dealing with issues of high debt and high labour costs. Australian agriculture requires long-term strategies to address these issues, while contending with current sector challenges of high labour rates and under-developed processing facilities. By providing long-term, well-funded and environmentally sustainable investments, foreign agribusinesses and SOEs can be hugely beneficial to the sector.

The presence and operation of such agribusinesses must be monitored, however, in consideration of maintaining domestic food security. The role of Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) in this cannot be understated; it plays a significant role in ensuring investments are made according to the national interest. Clear government policy measures must be taken to alleviate public concerns of foreign investment, while delivering more avenues for the production of healthy, ready-to-consume food products for Australians.

- See more at: http://www.futuredirections.org.au/publications/food-and-water-crises/1926-unlocking-our-potential-the-need-for-foreign-investment-in-australian-agriculture.html#_ftn3

 

 

 

Tuesday
Sep022014

Global Aquaculture: Australia’s Role in Meeting Industry Challenges

This article was published on the Future Directions International website here

It was written by Matthew Curry, Research Assistant, Global Food and Water Crisis Research Programme

 

Global Aquaculture: Australia’s Role in Meeting Industry Challenges

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Aquaculture is rapidly expanding and showing promise as a means of decreasing poverty rates and improving food security globally. Australia’s world-leading aquaculture companies have demonstrated their potential to pioneer the advancement of this important industry.

Background

Aquaculture – the breeding and harvesting of aquatic organisms – has grown substantially in recent decades. Despite this, long-term mismanagement of the world’s fisheries has led to a decline in world fish stocks, placing increased pressure on aquaculture to meet global demand. Fish consumption has been linked to improved nutrition and poverty alleviation; thus, sustainably managing this expansion is essential. 

Comment

Seafood Intelligence – an independent international seafood market news and information service – has benchmarked Tasmanian salmon producer Tassal as the world’s top salmon farming company, based on corporate, social and environmental responsibility and sustainability. This report was accompanied by an Australian first: Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) accreditation for Tassal’s Macquarie Harbour farms. The award comes at a time of global growth in aquaculture, which is increasing the availability of fish as a safe and healthy food option.

Aquatic produce is a source of income and food security for more than 500 million people in developing states. Fish is high in protein and essential oils: vital components of a balanced diet. Low incomes restrict many people from accessing such essential sources of protein, however. Therefore aquaculture’s capacity to provide a source of protein and income for those living in poverty is invaluable to developing populations. That potential is complicated, however, by inherent sustainability issues.

Aquaculture, if poorly managed, can contribute to widespread environmental degradation. This includes reduced water quality, stock disease and damage to ocean ecosystems due to fish feed extraction. All of these negative effects must be addressed to ensure the successful expansion of aquaculture.

Although Australian aquaculture accounts for just 0.36% of global production, the high quality and sustainability of Australian products and production systems have made Australia an industry leader worldwide.

Developing alternative feed sources is vital to the expansion of agriculture. The Australian government and aquaculture industry leaders can assist in this area, through research and resource provisions. Aquaculture cultivates high value fish that are often carnivorous; they are fed smaller and lower value fish extracted from the oceans. This, however, can upset the ecosystems and food chains in the oceans. The Australian government is currently investing in a joint aquaculture research programme with Vietnam, to find alternative, sustainable feed sources. Solving this problem will require co-operation between all stakeholders, i.e. governments, policy makers, commercial farmers, smallholder farmers and subsistence farmers around the world. Programmes such as these are a step in the right direction for the industry’s future.

In developing countries, many aquaculture enterprises are only designed for subsistence farming. The strict food, health and safety standards required for exports, often bar smallholder farmers from gaining access to global markets, which limits their potential to improve their livelihoods. Australia’s extensive knowledge and expertise in health and safety standardisation could be applied to help develop these smallholder farms.

Aquaculture will continue to expand as the demand for fish increases; however, that growth will need to be sustainable. This is essential to uphold aquaculture’s promise in addressing food insecurity and poverty issues. Australia has the potential to contribute significantly to the sustainable development of global aquaculture, by assisting smallholder farmers in developing nations who lack the systems, skills and technology to gain broader market access. The collaboration of Australian firms with other countries and stakeholders can assist in achieving greater food security globally.

 

 

Thursday
Aug282014

Hamour exploited 6-7 times over sustainable level

The following article was published on the gulfnews.com website on August 1, 2014. It was written by Binsal Abdul Kader, Staff Reporter

 

Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi backs aquaculture to restore dwindling fish species

Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Local Hamour fish at the Fish market at Lulu Hypermarket at Khalidia Mall in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi: Hamour (orange-spotted grouper), the most sought after fish species in the region, is also the most overexploited one. The rate at which Hamour are caught is estimated to be six to seven times in excess of sustainable levels, according to the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD).

Surveys conducted in 2002 showed that the grouper in general had been depleted to 13 per cent, compared to the abundance in which it was found in the region in 1978. Although a stock assessment for Cobia has not been undertaken yet, there are very limited landings of about 30 tonnes a year.

As the population of Abu Dhabi has increased over the years, fisheries expanded to try and meet the rising demand for fresh fish.

Well-managed restocking initiatives including introducing hatchery-produced fish fingerlings of overexploited local species back into the wild can help replenish overexploited fisheries resources.

Sustainable aquaculture technologies can also be used to preserve biodiversity by boosting the numbers of threatened and endangered species. In addition, some types of aquaculture, such as pearl aquaculture (or those involving filter feeding species), require sites at sea with good water quality. In effect, the existence of these farms at these locations ends up protecting these pristine areas and further enhancing the water quality in the area, an EAD spokesperson said.