By 2050, there will be about 2 billion more mouths to feed, which means the global demand for food will rise by nearly 40% in the next 30 years. As the population increases, so does the demand for protein.
“Aquaculture has the potential to meet all of mankind’s protein needs,” says Larry Feinberg, the cofounder of KnipBio.
Fish farms hold great promise in offering unprecedented productivity using a relatively small area of our oceans. In fact, experts project 62% of food fish will come from aquaculture by 2030.
The caveat, Feinberg says, is that we need to feed fish and crustaceans sustainably. Specifically, the industry must not rely on harvesting precious marine resources like anchovies and other pelagic fish. Considered the gold standard for protein in aquaculture, fish meal, he continues, is a limited resource.
“Today, pelagic fish like anchovies reduced to fish meal are being harvested at a maximally sustainable rate,” Feinberg says. “The aquaculture industry is expected to more than double in the near term. Where is the protein to feed these fish going to come from? There is no feasible way wild fish stocks can sustain this demand.”
Sustainable alternatives to fish meal are the only way the industry has the potential to grow, he believes.
“We will require multiple solutions, including single cell proteins, insects, algae, and other sources, to ultimately be effective in achieving these goals,” Feinberg says. “Ideally, aquaculture would also not compete with agricultural inputs that might be better suited for human consumption.”
Exploring feed alternatives
An industrial microbiologist by training, Feinberg is distressed by the fate of our oceans and the near-exhaustion of wild fisheries.
“Fish have a critical role to play as part of our food-secure future and the only source of animal protein I eat,” he says. “I asked myself, ‘Is it possible to raise fish that taste great without using precious marine resources?’ That’s when I started working on KnipBio.”
Rather than brewing beer, Feinberg says KnipBio is brewing protein. It uses a microbe to convert low-cost feedstocks into high-value protein and other functional molecules. Using standard techniques, the company can enhance properties of interest to effectively make different products, but essentially the product is the microorganism.
“We are creating high-quality, sustainable proteins from microbes using an established fermentation process,” he explains. “One of the unique challenges in aquaculture is there are dozens of farmed species – each with its own diet requirement. By using biotechnology, we can create customized nutritional solutions for many different species.”
Generally speaking, Feinberg says the company’s target market is for farm-raised fish and shrimp. In time, the company believes its products may be of interest to the livestock industry.
KnipBio is currently working with a select group of prequalified customers to demonstrate the meal’s efficacy and safety in trout, salmon, shrimp, and other commercially important species.
Feinberg says KnipBio Meal is already competitively priced with fish meal. “As we move toward commercial-scale industrial fermentation and use lower-cost industrial by-products, we anticipate costs to decrease significantly,” he says.
Founders: Larry Feinberg and Chris Marx
Headquarters: Lowell, Massachusetts
Background: KnipBio is developing high-quality sustainable proteins from microbes using existing fermentation processes for the aquaculture industry.