Our planet is commonly known as Earth – but with water covering 71% of the world’s surface, perhaps we chose the wrong name! And our oceans are not just vast expanses; they’re a vital source of nourishment for billions of people worldwide, providing 15% of global protein intake.
The diversity of ocean food systems, together with the rich nutritional content of aquatic food, makes them essential for feeding the world’s growing population. But to do this properly, in a way that respects our planet, we need to conserve marine life and make ocean food production more sustainable.
At dsm-firmenich, we’re not just acutely aware of this issue – as a Category of One, we’ve been harnessing the full breadth of our science and research capabilities to shape a better future for marine ecosystems. From omega-3s derived from algae to net-zero proteins for aquaculture feed, our Business Units have developed a wide array of solutions to preserve and protect the oceans that sustain us all. Keen to know more? Let’s dive beneath the waves for a quick tour…
An algal boom in sustainable omega-3s
DHA and EPA are omega-3s that play a key role in the diets of both fish and humans. As things stand, they’re mostly sourced from wild-caught cold-water fatty fish – but large-scale open fishing has resulted in a 50% decline in marine life since 1970.
With the global population forecast to reach almost 10 billion by 2050, it’s essential to meet growing demand for omega-3s while protecting global fish stocks – and that’s where we come in. Instead of deriving omega-3s from fish, we go straight to the original source: algae.
Together with Evonik, we’ve developed a unique fermentation process that produces a viable algal alternative to fish oil, becoming the first players in the aquaculture industry to achieve such a feat. Veramaris® algal oil contains a 50% concentration of the fatty acids needed to nourish farmed salmon, saving 60 tonnes of wild-caught salmon per tonne produced. And because plant-based DHA and EPA contain the same fundamental molecules as those derived from fish, there’s no difference in efficacy or health benefits for farmed fish.
As the demand for omega-3 fatty acids grows, so too is the demand for sustainable sources. For human consumers, our life’s®OMEGA omega-3 sustainably provides a pure and potent form of algal EPA and DHA in a single source. Free of organic pollutants and allergens, these products provide all the clinically proven health and well-being benefits of traditional omega-3s, have a significantly lower carbon footprint, and don’t have a negative impact on marine resources. That’s because life’s®OMEGA is 100% vegan, naturally derived from algae and non-GMO using algae that’s sustainably cultivated, so there’s zero impact on the marine ecosystem. With only 20% of consumers eating the recommended daily amount of omega-3s and 62% preferring a plant-based source, life’s®OMEGA makes it possible to enjoy these vital nutrients with perfect peace of mind.
Single-cell proteins: A new frontier for aquaculture feed
Of course, reducing pressure on fish stocks is only one part of the journey to build truly sustainable aquatic food systems. We also need to find ways to reduce the planetary impact of fish farming – and our recent breakthrough in protein production does exactly that.
Single-cell proteins (SCPs) are naturally occurring microorganisms that convert platform molecules into proteins. With an incredible potential for scalability, they’re perfectly suited to replace the fish meal or soy protein concentrate typically used in aquaculture. SCPs contain all the amino acids required by fish, and offer many other advantages over traditional sources of protein:
This game-changing approach will help close the protein demand gap resulting from a growing population – and do it without increasing the carbon footprint of aquatic food systems. As the aquaculture industry looks to meet its sustainability targets, SCPs are the perfect catch.
Waste not, want not: Upcycling seafood by-products
To build truly sustainable aquatic food systems, embedding circularity throughout the seafood industry is another key priority. That’s why our facility in Ålesund, Norway, processes 10,000 tonnes of seafood raw materials every year; these are mostly by-products from the seafood industry that would otherwise be thrown into the ocean.
Instead of letting these materials go to waste, we use sophisticated biotechnological processes to convert them into seafood extracts and flavors such as codfish, shrimp, lobster, crab, squid, and other popular seafood tonalities. Our customers can then use these flavors in soup, stocks, sauces, and ready-to-eat meals. This is a win-win situation: we’re helping to reduce wastage in the seafood industry while bringing a delicious range of seafood flavors to consumers!
Plant-based fish alternatives that deliver on every count
Speaking of succulent flavors, we’ve also developed a range of solutions to support the creation of great-tasting fish alternatives. These play an important – and growing – role in reducing pressure on marine ecosystems while maintaining the affordability, taste, texture, and appearance of traditional fish products.
With ingredients like Maxavor® Fish YE, producers can bring a variety of rich, delicious fish flavors, such as tuna, salmon, and crab, to their plant-based creations. Meanwhile, our GELLANEER® gellan gum enables authentic fish juiciness and mouthfeel for a complete seafood culinary experience, minus the fish! And of course, our life’s®OMEGA allows producers to further improve the nutritional profile of their fish alternatives by adding omega-3s from an algal source.
By expanding access to top-quality fish alternatives, we help brands give consumers a wider range of sumptuous options for mealtimes. The net result – pun fully intended! – is to further close the protein demand gap and secure a more sustainable future for fish stocks.
Our sustainability commitment: Never watered down
In parallel with our efforts to bring progress to life for aquatic food systems, we’re committed to managing our own water usage in a responsible, sustainable way. This is important for multiple economic, environmental, and social reasons, including the fact that water pollution and scarcity have contributed to an 83% decline in freshwater fish species since 1970.
To achieve optimal usage of this finite resource, we conduct water risk assessments across all our sites in water-stressed areas, as well as those with the greatest water usage, applying a context-based approach to tackling water stress based on the unique water challenges of different local environments. By 2030, we intend to achieve a 10% efficiency improvement in water intake at our water-stressed sites, which translates to saving one billion liters every year.
But we realize that’s not enough. While water is generally not a major ingredient in our products, our customers in the pharma, feed, and cosmetic industries use it intensively. That’s why we forge close relationships with our partners to determine how we can reduce water stress together. By owning the outcome and galvanizing our value chain to take decisive action, we can ensure safe, available water for all – as well as the long-term stability of global food systems.
The flow of progress
As a company that combines the essential, the desirable, and the sustainable, we’re driven by a single purpose: to bring progress to life. And for us, progress is only meaningful if we’re moving in a direction that respects our planet and its interconnected food systems. Water, the wellspring of life itself, is an indispensable part of each of these systems – which is why we’re so driven to reduce our own water usage and develop solutions that strengthen the sustainability of the aquaculture industry. Nevertheless, we appreciate that more needs to be done. Recognizing that progress is a journey, not a destination, we’ll use every capability at our disposal to keep protecting our oceans, closing the protein gap, and innovating in any way we can to safeguard the water that nourishes all life on Earth.
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