NovoNutrients is a startup that is turning CO2 emissions into fish feed, showing the world how to feed fish sustainably. This is another great example of how we can actually use greenhouse gases (GHGs) to our advantage. It is crucially important to reduce CO2 emissions, since it is the second most damaging GHG (the first being, surprisingly enough, water vapour).
While we make the transition to renewable sources of energy, we still need to significantly reduce our carbon emissions in order to ensure that we can abide by the Paris climate agreement. This agreement unites all nations in a global effort to tackle climate change. The main aim is:
“to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Taking carbon emissions and turning them into something genuinely useful can play a role in helping to meet this target. Companies like NovoNutrients are proving that there is always a solution to environmental problems, including those that seem too daunting to tackle.
Why we need sustainable fish feed
Before addressing how to feed fish sustainably, let’s examine why we need sustainable fish feed. As NovoNutrients highlight on their website:
- The global aquaculture market produced over 69 million tons of seafood in 2013. Aquaculture revenues are projected to exceed $200 billion by 2020.
- Humans consume 20Kg of fish per year – double the consumption from 1960.
- An additional 27 million tons of fish production will be needed to meet demand by 2030.
- Over half of all seafood is produced by aquaculture; by 2030, aquaculture is projected to produce two-thirds of the global seafood supply.
- The supply of aquaculture feed needs to increase by over 400 million tons by the end of the century.
- 1/3 of the current harvest of wild fish is turned into aquaculture feed (fishmeal). The fisheries that supply fishmeal are declining and the current sources of fishmeal are unsustainable.
- Plant based replacements for fishmeal (i.e. soy) are not viable, long term alternatives.
NovoNutrients also emphasise that:
“by producing a fish-free, cost competitive alternative to fishmeal, fewer ocean fish will be harvested, allowing overfished wild fisheries to begin the path to recovery.”
How to feed fish sustainably
So how does this startup turn a harmful GHG into a fish-free alternative to fishmeal? Well, they use a natural fermentation process, similar to how foods like tofu, cheese and yoghurt are produced.
During the fermentation process, single-celled microorganisms work together to capture the CO2 and then convert it into complex organic compounds like proteins, fats and carbohydrates. When the fermentation process is complete, these microorganisms are harvested, dried and packaged, leaving you with high-protein fish feed.
Not only can this product (called NovoMeal) be used to feed fish, it can be used to feed other animals as well. Feeding livestock with NovoMeal would have many environmental benefits, since large swathes of rainforest are destroyed in order to grow soybeans as feed for poultry, pork and cattle.
This deforestation is threatening the vitality of ecosystems in South America, as well as adversely affecting indigenous peoples, the global climate, water reserves and soil quality.
Potential applications for space travel
Knowing how to feed fish sustainably could even be relevant for space travel. CO2 has to be removed from any spacecraft. Currently, this extraction process is done using canisters containing powdered lithium hydroxide. But what if CO2 was extracted with the process that NovoNutrients is utilising?
Then you would have the benefit of creating a nutrient dense product that astronauts could add to their meals. This would help to keep crew members healthy and, in turn, ensure that they are performing to the best of their ability.
About the author: Sam Woolfe @samwoolfe
Sam is a writer who is especially interested in space exploration, sustainability, animal agriculture, nutrition, wellbeing and smart drugs. He is also currently writing a book about the psychedelic drug DMT.