Even though soybean meal is the No. 1 protein source used in fish feeds worldwide, many people are still unaware of the benefits of feeding soy to this sector of animal agriculture. And the aquaculture industry is working on feed sustainability with soy as part of that equation. To educate other global aquaculture representatives, soy checkoff farmer-leaders Mike Beard, from Frankfort, Ind., and Laura Foell, from Schaller, Iowa, recently attended the Global Opportunities for Aquaculture Leadership (GOAL) conference. In this interview, Beard discusses what he learned at the conference about the opportunities aquaculture offers U.S. soybean farmers.
Q: How is the checkoff increasing demand for soybean meal to use in fish feed beyond U.S. borders?
A: Through their checkoff, U.S. soybean farmers have a presence in nearly all regions of the world where aquaculture is being developed. We supply nutrition information and feed mill specialists to lend expertise. We’ve conducted studies on how to most effectively include soy in a diet for a particular fish species and found species that perform well with soybean meal as their protein source.
Q: What was the big news from the GOAL conference?
A: United Soybean Board has worked extensively on developing aquaculture feeds that incorporate soybean meal. When we presented this alternative to fish meal and eyebrows were raised, it was an opportunity to talk with many of the participants about topics such as sustainability, GMOs, market availability and quality. As we’re still introducing soybean meal as a fish feed, it’s important to get in front of industry leaders and raise awareness.
Q: How receptive are fish farmers to replacing fish meal with soybean meal?
A: We talked about how we can include soy in aquaculture diets and displace a significant portion of fish meal, which used to be the traditional protein source. People were interested to hear that there is an opportunity to feed the aquaculture industry with a less expensive and more plentiful product – soybean meal. The supply of fish meal is continuing to dwindle and something has to takes its place in this growing industry to support consumer demand for seafood.
Q: How important is soy sustainability to the aquaculture industry?
A: This is the year of sustainability. Every presenter touched on sustainability during the conference, so we were able to leverage the U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol, which outlines the regulations, processes and practices that prove U.S. soy production is sustainable, and educate our foreign buyers on how U.S. soy can be considered sustainable.