Cooke Aquaculture uses underwater monitoring to train farm specialists
Underwater cameras and staff fish behaviourists are two of the innovations Cooke Aquaculture is using to feed its fish stocks as efficiently as possible.
At a panel centred on seafood profitability at the 2013 World Seafood Congress at the Delta Hotel, Ross Butler, senior vice-president of the New Brunswick-based company, said the underwater camera system developed by Cooke’s Dr. Kang Pee Ang is now in use by companies around the world.
“He takes this technology and trains all of our fish-growing people on our farms to use this technology and to understand the behaviour of the fish: when they’re hungry, when they’re not — so feeding, stop feeding, and so on,” said Butler.
“Our on-staff feed specialist Alan Donkin conducts feed trials on all alternative feed ingredients to reduce our reliance on fish ingredients.”
Cooke’s feed division provides the company almost 80 per cent of its feed, with the rest coming from international manufacturers.
“While the health and welfare of our fish requires that we include quality fishmeal and oil in the diets, we’ve been able to reduce our reliance, in the last 10 years, by over 70 per cent,” he said. “Fishmeal and oil now only makes up 15 to 20 per cent of our product.”
The work has helped Cooke get its feed-to-fish ratio — the number of kilograms of feed required to produce one kilogram of fish — down to 1.2 kilos of food to produce one kilo of fish.
“Ongoing improvements are continuously moving that number closer to 1.1,” he said. “If you compare that to land-based (animals), most of the poultry in the world today is well-documented at about two kilograms of food to produce one kilo. Pork is somewhere in the 3.5 range, and it ranges plus or minus depending on the countries that you look at. And for cattle, that’s upwards of eight kilograms of food to produce one kilo.”
Salmon are efficient at converting food to energy because they’re cold-blooded and therefore don’t require energy to stay warm.
“We harvest them before maturity, so you’re not wasting energy on reproduction,” he said.