Seeding Food Innovation - Awarded Project 2017

Improving Aquaculture Feed Sustainability through Use of Genetically Engineered Oils

Project Description

Aquaculture will be instrumental in maintaining global food security in the future: up to 40 million metric tonnes of seafood will be required by 2030 to feed the growing human population, and over 60% of seafood will come from aquaculture. Some of the main nutritional benefits of seafood are the omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and which have critical roles in cardiovascular and neurological health. Farmed fish also have a nutritional requirement for EPA and DHA. Normally these nutrients are supplied to farmed fish from fish oil, which is harvested from wild fisheries. However, wild stocks are over exploited; therefore, using fish oil in aquaculture is no longer sustainable. In addition, terrestrial plant oils do not normally contain EPA and DHA, so vegetable oils cannot replace fish oil. However, as a solution to this, oilseeds have recently been genetically engineered (GE) to produce EPA and DHA. This represents a new sustainable source of these nutrients, which could be used to raise farmed fish to meet our growing need for seafood. The goal of this project is to evaluate GE oil as a new sustainable source of EPA and DHA to feed farmed fish.

Relevance to the field of food innovation

Fish are a main source of EPA and DHA for humans, and which are nutrients that are critical to our heart and brain health. This new technology has developed a high quality, sustainable, renewable and reliable source of these omega-3s. This work will determine if GE oil is a healthy source of EPA and DHA to farmed fish, which in turn can positively affect our health, particularly the brain. Farming fish using a sustainable source of EPA and DHA will help alleviate pressure on wild fish stocks, and using our ocean resources in a more environmentally-sustainable manner.

Anticipated outcome

The proposed work is an innovative way of supplying an essential nutrient to farmed fish. First, this project will contribute to sustainably farmed seafood that is a healthy and satisfying source of nutrients for Canadians. Second, this project will help reduce dependency on wild fisheries by minimizing (or even replacing) the amount of fish oil used in feeds. This supports marine conservation which is important because, in general, healthy oceans support and benefit Canadians and other citizens of other nations. Third, this project will help reduce feed costs, which will make farmed seafood a more affordable option for Canadians. In general, this research will help improve the environmental sustainability of aquaculture and ensure quality seafood for Canadians.


Dr. Stefanie Colombo

Dr. Stefanie Colombo is a Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Aquaculture Nutrition, and Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University- Agricultural Campus. She completed her B.Sc. in Marine & Freshwater Biology at the University of Guelph. Her M.Sc. (Biology) at Dalhousie focused on sustainable sources of protein and lipid » More Info

Dr. Michael Arts

Dr. Michael Arts has extensive knowledge in the use of essential fatty acids and other lipid-based biochemical tracers to examine the health/vitality of organisms in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Dr. Arts spent 24 years as a federal scientist (Environment Canada) and where he examined how globally important » More Info

Dr. Richard Bazinet

Dr. Bazinet received his BSc from the University of Western Ontario and completed his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Cunnane at the University of Toronto in 2003. Dr. Bazinet then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Stanley Rapoport’s Brain Physiology and Metabolism Section at the National Institute on » More Info