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Perspectives of plant protein use in aquaculture: Biological, environmental and socio-economic consequences

Studies will be undertaken on a freshwater and a marine teleost (rainbow trout and gilthead sea bream) in order to define the ideal protein profile for maximising muscle growth. With an amino acid balance, non-protein energy supply and reduction of anti-nutritional factors (ANF), fishmeal-free (FMF) practical diets will be developed using plant protein sources. The consequences of these on digestion, absorption and nutrient utilisation leading to lower environmental load will be analysed. The metabolic and endocrine control of muscle growth, protein and fat synthesis will be studied, both in vivo and in vitro. Long-term effects on voluntary feed intake, muscle quality, health and reproduction will be assessed. A socio-economic analysis of the switch from the dependence of aquafeeds on marine resources to plant-protein based diets will be undertaken.

The general objectives of this project are:
1) to replace most fishmeal with plant protein sources in fish diets while improving muscle protein growth, fish quality, health, reproductive potential and environmental quality
2) to understand the metabolic fates of dietary amino acids (AA) and carbohydrates as carbon donors and as energy sources
3) to strengthen the understanding of the relationships between nutritional factors and endocrine control of muscle growth and adiposity using cellular and molecular approaches.

Progress to Date
The project includes two major studies. The first concerns the definition of the optimal ratio between essential and dispensable amino acid (IAA/DAA) in fish feeds. The second concerns the effects of replacement of fishmeal in feeds with plant proteins.
In both studies, the following parameters were studied:
1) nutrient use and balance
2) digestion and absorption
3) metabolism (protein, carbohydrate, lipid)
4) muscle growth and differentiation, adiposity
5) endocrine control (somatotropic and gonadotropic)
6) consumer acceptance of the product.
Both studies have been performed using rainbow trout and sea bream as the experimental species.

The work performed thus far in this project establishes, through physiological, biochemical, and molecular means, the effects on fish welfare and product quality of the replacement of fishmeal with plant protein sources. Plant proteins present a promising alternative to fishmeal. However, problems, such as the presence of anti-nutritional factors in plant proteins, still need to be solved.

Concerning the socio-economic dimension of this project, it was found that consumers across Europe respond differently to changes in fish feed ingredients, mainly due to cultural differences.


Scientist responsible for the project

Hydrobiology Station
64310 St-Pée-sur-Nivelle
France - FR

Phone: +33 5 59 51 59 90
Fax: +33 5 59 54 51 52


Project ID QLRT-1999-30068
Organisation INRA-IFREMER, Fish Nutrition Research Laboratory
Area 5.1.2
Start date 01 October 2000
Duration (months) 36
Total cost 3 018 009 €
Total EC contribution   1 850 000 €
Status Ongoing
Web address of the project

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