Ingredient Evaluation

Ingredient companies and Aquafeed companies need to assess whether new ingredients can replace fishmeal and fish oil in aquafeeds. The F3FIN network suggests the Ingredient Evaluation Flowchart below for assessment.

• Start by clicking the Start Button.
• If desired, select a step of interest from the flowchart instead. To view protocols for a specific step, click on the download icon
• When finished, click on the next arrow.
• Questions? Check out our FAQ Section  or contact us.

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Nutritional Composition Analysis
Nutritional Composition Analysis

This analysis is a first step to determine the potential of new or modified feed ingredients to substitute for fishmeal or fish oil. Ingredient providers should perform nutritional composition analysis anytime the nutritional profile of the ingredient is likely to have changed (i.e., new raw materials used, modifications made to the production process, etc.)
Key Considerations:

This analysis is a first step to determine the potential of new or modified feed ingredients to substitute for fishmeal or fish oil. Ingredient providers should perform nutritional composition analysis anytime the nutritional profile of the ingredient is likely to have changed (i.e., new raw materials used, modifications made to the production process, etc.)

Key Considerations:

• Test fresh ingredients to get the most accurate results.
• If you are concerned about the freshness, collect peroxide values to test for rancidity.
• Note the expiration date and proper storage conditions and if expired, obtain another batch of ingredients.
• Some ingredients may include antinutritional factors such as aflatoxins, trypsin inhibitors, glucosinolates, etc. It is important to determine if they are present in certain ingredients.

Formulate Feed
Formulate Feed

Feed formulation will be specific to the experimental design. The F3 team has compiled a list of items to consider during the process of formulating feed with your ingredient - see notes.

Manufacture Feed
Manufacture Feed

Once experimental formulas have been finalized, it is time to contract with a feed mill to produce the feed. There are several important details to discuss with potential feed mills. Click the "Download Notes" button to access these notes.

Untested or Tested?
Is your ingredient a new, novel ingredient or is it a modification or variant of an existing ingredient that has been well-tested by the aquaculture industry?
First Feeding Screening
First Feeding Screening

The first feeding trial (AKA “Fry Feeding Trial”) is an inexpensive preliminary test to evaluate if fry will consume the test ingredient and grow.
Key Considerations:

The first feeding trial (AKA “Fry Feeding Trial”) is an inexpensive preliminary test to evaluate if fry will consume the test ingredient and grow.

Key Considerations:

• If the ingredient is a modification of an existing ingredient, (e.g., enhanced soy product) this step may be bypassed
• Test fresh ingredients to get the most accurate results
• Note the expiration date and proper storage conditions
• Test for rancidity (peroxide value) if you see poor performance
• Improving ingredient performance in a feed is an iterative process. Known methods to improve ingredient performance are linked here.

Ingredient Functionality
Ingredient Functionality

This test determines the effect of a new ingredient on feed pellet durability, expansion, oil absorption, and water stability.
Key Considerations:

This test determines the effect of a new ingredient on feed pellet durability, expansion, oil absorption, and water stability.

Key Considerations:

• Functionality testing may be combined with Palatability, Digestibility, and Solid Waste Management Testing to conserve time and funds.
• Use 30% test ingredient and 70% reference diet
• Record extruder settings to maintain consistency in production
• Test fresh ingredients to get the most accurate results
• Note the expiration date and proper storage conditions
• Improving ingredient performance in a feed is an iterative process. Known methods to improve ingredient performance are linked here.

Palatability Testing
Palatability Testing

Fish can be picky eaters. This test determines the initial reaction of fish to the inclusion of a new ingredient in a feed. Palatability may affect feed consumption and overall growth and performance of the fish.
Key Considerations:

Fish can be picky eaters. This test determines the initial reaction of fish to the inclusion of a new ingredient in a feed. Palatability may affect feed consumption and overall growth and performance of the fish.
Key Considerations:

Fish can be picky eaters. This test determines the initial reaction of fish to the inclusion of a new ingredient in a feed. Palatability may affect feed consumption and overall growth and performance of the fish.

Key Considerations:

• Palatability testing may be combined with Functionality, Digestibility, and Solid Waste Management Testing to conserve time and funds.
• Make sure the pellet size is appropriate for the fish size.
• Hand feed to apparent satiation 3-4 times daily
• Test fresh ingredients to get the most accurate results
• Note the expiration date and proper storage conditions
• Test for rancidity (peroxide value) if you see poor performance
• Improving ingredient performance in a feed is an iterative process. Known methods to improve ingredient performance are linked here.

Digestibility Testing
Digestibility Testing

Besides being palatable, ingredients must be nutritious for fish. This testing uses Apparent Digestibility Coefficients (ADC) to measure the percentage of nutrients in an ingredient that are available to the fish.
Key Considerations:

Besides being palatable, ingredients must be nutritious for fish. This testing uses Apparent Digestibility Coefficients (ADC) to measure the percentage of nutrients in an ingredient that are available to the fish.
Key Considerations:

Besides being palatable, ingredients must be nutritious for fish. This testing uses Apparent Digestibility Coefficients (ADC) to measure the percentage of nutrients in an ingredient that are available to the fish.

Key Considerations:

• Digestibility testing may be combined with Functionality, Palatability, and Solid Waste Management Testing to conserve time and funds.
• Results may vary between laboratory methods used
• Diets should include a theoretically indigestible marker
• Test fresh ingredients to get the most accurate results
• Note the expiration date and proper storage conditions
• Test for rancidity (peroxide value) if you see poor performance
• Improving ingredient performance in a feed is an iterative process. Known methods to improve ingredient performance are linked here.

Solid Waste Management Testing
Solid Waste Management Testing

It is important to assess the impact of an ingredient on nutrient uptake and ultimately, the animal’s waste both in volume and form.
Key Considerations:

It is important to assess the impact of an ingredient on nutrient uptake and ultimately, the animal’s waste both in volume and form.

Key Considerations:

• Solid Waste Management testing may be combined with Functionality, Palatability, and Digestibility to conserve time and funds.
• Feces consistency can be a function of inclusion levels of the ingredient in the feed
• Waste quantity and consistency can impact water quality and animal health
• Flow-through and recirculating aquaculture systems require special considerations for waste management
• Improving ingredient performance in a feed is an iterative process. Known methods to improve ingredient performance are linked here.

Grow Out Testing
Grow Out Testing

Grow out trials evaluate the effect of an ingredient on key performance metrics such as weight gain, feed conversion, and nutritional quality of the final fillet.
Key Considerations:

Grow out trials evaluate the effect of an ingredient on key performance metrics such as weight gain, feed conversion, and nutritional quality of the final fillet - see full list in Protocols.

Key Considerations:

• Include controls containing no ingredient (fishmeal control, commercial control for benchmarking) as well as experimental feeds containing graded levels of ingredient
• Make sure pellets are the same size across treatments and make sure to include multiple pellet sizes if required to accommodate growth of the fish
• Four replicates per feed is recommended
• Test for rancidity (peroxide value) if you see poor performance
• Use histological sampling to help diagnose growth or performance issues
• Improving ingredient performance in a feed is an iterative process. Known methods to improve ingredient performance are linked here.

Optional Tests
Optional Additions to Grow Out

It often requires so much planning to line up feed experiments, that conducting tests immediately after Grow Out is efficient. At the end of the day, taste and texture matter to consumers. To test these, Grow Out samples can be collected for Taste Testing and Texture Profile Analysis. Note that for Taste Testing and Texture Profile Analysis, samples should be extracted directly after Grow Out, and before Disease Challenge Testing.
Then, lining up a disease challenge directly afterwards can be efficient. Disease Challenge Testing assesses the potential of ingredients to improve immune response and survival when challenged with a disease or parasite. Often, farmers will not adopt without assurance that the feed does not compromise immunity. To select a testing facility that is also qualified to conduct disease trials, the facility requires additional biosecurity measures. See Disease Challenge Protocols for testing facility considerations.

It often requires so much planning to line up feed experiments, that conducting tests immediately after Grow Out is efficient. At the end of the day, taste and texture matter to consumers. To test these, Grow Out samples can be collected for Taste Testing and Texture Profile Analysis. Note that for Taste Testing and Texture Profile Analysis, samples should be extracted directly after Grow Out, and before Disease Challenge Testing.

Then, lining up a disease challenge directly afterwards can be efficient. Disease Challenge Testing assesses the potential of ingredients to improve immune response and survival when challenged with a disease or parasite. Often, farmers will not adopt without assurance that the feed does not compromise immunity. To select a testing facility that is also qualified to conduct disease trials, the facility requires additional biosecurity measures. See Disease Challenge Protocols for testing facility considerations.

Key Considerations:

• Carefully plan trial timing to achieve the most accurate results
• Check research facility certifications and capabilities
• Blind testing helps eliminate biases

Disease Challenge Testing
Disease and Parasite Challenge Testing

Feed can affect an animal's susceptibility to disease and parasites, and the commercial viability of farming. Disease or parasite challenges evaluate the potential for an ingredient to improve immune response and enhanced survival of the target animal.
Key Considerations:

Feed can affect an animal's susceptibility to disease and parasites, and the commercial viability of farming. Disease or parasite challenges evaluate the potential for an ingredient to improve immune response and enhanced survival of the target animal. Disease and parasite challenge testing is often a prerequisite for commercialization, and can be efficiently tested after a successful growpout. Note that taste testing can be done in parallel with disease and Parasite testing but not afterwards. Extract a few sample fish before commencing with Disease and Parasite testing.
Key Considerations:

Feed can affect an animal's susceptibility to disease and parasites, and the commercial viability of farming. Disease or parasite challenges evaluate the potential for an ingredient to improve immune response and enhanced survival of the target animal. Disease and parasite challenge testing is often a prerequisite for commercialization, and can be efficiently tested after a successful growpout. Note that taste testing can be done in parallel with disease and Parasite testing but not afterwards. Extract a few sample fish before commencing with Disease and Parasite testing.

Key Considerations:

• Immunity benefits may help offset higher premiums for alternative ingredients
• Consider major diseases or challenge affecting aquaculture of the target animal
• Conduct challenge trials on animals at their most vulnerable stage
• Use histological sampling to help diagnose growth or performance issues
• Improving ingredient performance in a feed is an iterative process. Known methods to improve ingredient performance are linked here.

Taste Testing
Taste Testing

At the end of the day, farmed products sell based on taste. Taste Testing is critical for assessing whether inclusion of your ingredient in an aquafeed will influence consumer preference for the seafood end product.
Key Considerations:

At the end of the day, farmed products sell based on taste. Taste Testing is critical for assessing whether inclusion of your ingredient in an aquafeed will influence consumer preference for the seafood end product. Taste testing is often a prerequisite for commercialization and can be efficiently tested after a successful grow out. If you are conducting a disease and parasite challenge, make sure to extract a few sample fish before commencing with disease and parasite testing.

Key Considerations:

• Analyze the nutritional quality of the fillet (in addition to taste) to determine if this affects consumer preference
• Compare your seafood product to a best-selling commercial product
• "No preference" is considered a positive outcome for taste testing
• Improving ingredient performance in a feed is an iterative process. Known methods to improve ingredient performance are linked here.

Commercial Field Trials
Commercial Field Trials

Once an ingredient has been proven in laboratory tests, the final step is to assess performance in a commercial aquaculture farm setting.
Key Considerations:

Once an ingredient has been proven in laboratory tests, the final step is to assess performance in a commercial aquaculture farm setting.

Key Considerations:

• These trials are typically longer and may involve growing the animal to market size
• A greater quantity of ingredients and feed will be required
• A greater variety of feed sizes will be needed to ensure that the feed is appropriately sized for fish size.
• Testing protocols will depend on the facilities and resources available
• Any ingredient and diet used in these large scale trials should be fully proven in the laboratory.

Commercialization
Commercialization

Congratulations! If you are satisfied with your ingredient's performance thus far, then it may be ready for commercialization. The F3 Team would love to hear from you. Please contact us to include your ingredient or feed in our list of providers. Still innovating your ingredient? Our team of experts is happy to provide feedback on any of the evaluation steps. Innovation never stops!
Key Considerations:

Congratulations! If you are satisfied with your ingredient's performance thus far, then it may be ready for commercialization. The F3 Team would love to hear from you. Please contact us to include your ingredient or feed in our list of providers.

Still innovating your ingredient? Our team of experts is happy to provide feedback on any of the evaluation steps. Innovation never stops!
Key Considerations:

• Cost and consistency
• Scaling production
• Partnering with feed companies

If you are interested in developing a complete feed, check out our feed evaluation protocols.

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FAQs

 

Where can I find a feed mill willing to produce small quantities for feed for these tests?

Feed mills will often accept orders for large quantities of feed. However, it can be tricky to find a feed mill that will produce small quantities of custom formulas, which is what you will need for many of the ingredient evaluation tests. Check out our Small Batch Feed Production list for feed mills who are willing to produce small batches of customized feeds.

Do you know of a feed mill that is not our list? Let us know and we will add them.

Do I need to perform all of these tests each time I want to feed my ingredient to a new species?

Nutritional composition analysis does not need to be performed each time a new species of fish is being tested. However, we recommend that all other tests be performed each time a new species is tested.

If I make changes to my ingredient do I need to run all of the tests again? 

Changing the nutritional composition of your ingredient may impact the outcomes of the remaining tests. Therefore, we recommend that ingredients go through the evaluation process again if significant changes are made to the ingredient’s composition.

My funds are limited. Can I prioritize or combine these tests? 

Yes – functionality, palatability, and digestibility testing may be combined to conserve funds.

What is AFIRE and why should I upload my experiment results to AFIRE?

AFIRE is the F3 Feed Innovation Network’s Aquaculture Feed Ingredient Resource Engine (AFIRE). The goal of this tool is to showcase scientifically relevant information regarding alternative ingredients to enable feed companies to compare fishmeal and fish oil substitutes. Uploading your experiment results will help make your ingredient more visible to feed companies and potential clients.