USSEC: Expanding the intrinsic value of US soy in Asian aquaculture


According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Asia accounts for 90% of the world's aquaculture production. Realising the huge potential of promoting the usage of US soy in aquaculture, the aquaculture program of the United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) was started over 35 years ago. USSEC's recent global marketing campaign "Dare to Compare", launched last year, spotlights the value of US soy's nutritional profile, sustainability, and refining characteristics, bringing a new level of understandingto the "intrinsic value" of US soy. To learn more about the linkage of soy to the aquaculture sector, eFeedLink interviewed Lukas Manomaitis, USSEC's Aquaculture Program Technical Contractor, to find out more details about this targeted focus.

eFeedLink: Please share with us some feedback on the "Dare to Compare" campaign.

Manomaitis: The "Dare to Compare" campaign was launched in November last year with the onset of the primary marketing season of US soy which is typically from October to March (though of course US soy is marketed year-round). 

We already know a lot about the extrinsic value of US soy, including its consistency, trade aspects, and the confidence in crop information from the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS). What this campaign does is to bring information to aquaculture producers to help them better understand the nutritional specifications and intrinsic value of US soy.

USSEC has always taken a production chain approach to aquaculture, looking at the industry at every part of the production chain, from broodstock to final consumer, finding out what things are blocking the adoption of US soy and trying to address those issues. Therefore we not only talk about the benefits of US soy (for example to feedmills, the ones who actually purchase it), but also work with every step in the aquaculture production chain to make sure that each is operating smoothly -  we feel that this is the way thatwe can truly improve the industry and increase the use of US soy.

In January this year, the United Soybean Board announced that it is introducing a pilot programme to market their products as being made with Sustainably Grown U.S. Soy. Please share with us your views on the implications of such a US mark for sustainable soybeans.

Manomaitis: Buyers of seafood products are making a push towards sustainability to get ahead of consumers who are increasingly aware of sustainability issues. To export aquaculture products these days, there is a need to be certified by third-party bodies such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Best Aquaculture Practices, and GlobalG.A.P., with the first two coming out with sustainability requirements for feed ingredients for aquaculture.

Since USSEC's aquaculture program was started over 35 years ago, we have always advocated for a profitable, long-term, feed-based aquaculture industry. USSEC helped to develop the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol, which is a certified aggregate approach audited by third parties that verifies sustainable soybean production at a national scale. We are currently working with companies who purchase 60% or more of their soy inputs from the US to authorise their use of a logo which they can place on their products (this initiative started first with soy for human nutrition).

What opportunities and challenges do you see for soy usage in aquaculture feeds, particularly in Asia where different varieties of alternative ingredients or by-products are used?

Manomaitis: Global production of soy is about 360 million tonnes, with about 10 million tonnes going into aquaculture. This figure pales in comparison to soy usage for poultry and swine, butconsidering the overall rapid growth in aquaculture production globally, there are definite opportunities for increased soy usage in aquaculture feeds.Also considering thatfishmeal production is unlikely to dramatically increase (with wild capture fisheries increasingly fully utilized or over-harvested, and processed trimmings not adding enough to match the need for these proteins), I have a personal feeling that with the growing need for aquaculture feeds, having a wider variety of alternative ingredients or by-products is not a bad thing.The variety of ingredients will vary across markets, but in combination will help tomeet the nutritional specifications of specific aquatic species at specific lifestages.


That said, soy is likely to remain one of the main ingredients in aquaculture feeds due to its volume production, high protein density, year-round availability, well-understood characteristics, and coming in a wide variety of product categories including soymeal, concentrate, isolate, oil, lecithin and fermented soy. Access to otheringredients will also be important to create nutritionally complete feeds.  From our perspective we need to match soy with other ingredients and by-products to complement nutritional characteristics which are lacking in soy itself.


Fishmeal will likely increasingly serve high-value, niche markets such as broodstock or early life stages, as it is unlikely that the volume will dramatically increase from the production volumes of five to six million tonnes per year.


In November last year, as part of the USSEC Southeast Asia Technical Broadcast Series, you presented on "The International Aquaculture Feed Formulation Database". Please share with us the relevance of this database to the aquaculture sector in Asia.

Manomaitis: The International Aquaculture Feed Formulation Database (IAFFD) was conceptualised in 2014, at a time when there were no public formulation databasesfor the aquaculture feed industry to use. In comparison, for terrestrial species such as poultry and swine, the industry could already buy commercially available databases or obtain them from academic institutionsand/or commercial partners.At that time, USSEC already had available databases for terrestrial species for use in training programs. Noting that the aquaculture sector did not have such databases but that the industry had already developed information on the nutrient requirements for different species, it was decided that a program to bring together this data into acomprehensive feed formulation database would be valuable for industry.  This database could then be used in a feed formulation program for group training or individual use.

To date, some feed millers are already using parts of the IAFFD databasedirectly, or using it as a benchmark to gauge the quality of their own private databases. With the IAFFD, USSEC can now work with groups of feed millers to do formulation training exercises on same formulation program using the same database.

Currently, there are over 30 commercially viable aquaculture species in the database, and we are constantly improving the information to guide formulatorsto have a better understanding of thenutrient requirements of different species at different life stages.

USSEC is a sponsor of the Global Aquaculture Challenge, an accelerator programme. Please share with us USSEC's motivation to support innovation in the aquaculture sector, particularly in this part of the world.

Manomaitis: With 90% of world aquaculture production being in Asia, USSEC's support of the programme falls along with what we have always been trying to do - identifying new concepts and ideas before they are needed so we can bring that knowledge to industry.  We believe in trying to be proactive instead of reactive.

A case in point is when soybean protein concentrate(SPC) used to be an ingredient that was found only in food gradequality and was never used in aquaculture feeds due to its prohibitive cost. Noting that SPC's protein level is similar to fishmeal, USSEC worked with the industry and eventually helped to encourage its adoption in aquaculture feeds, particularly as SPC started to be produced in a feed grade quality more suitable for the commercial livestock feed industry.

What other upcoming initiatives might USSEC wish to share with our readers?

Manomaitis: USSEC works on a variety of initiatives throughout the course of each year, focused both on promotion of US soy and the improvement and expansion of a feed-based aquaculture industry overall.

For example, the IAFFD initiative will conductformulation workshops with commercial feedmills and is planned in two stages this year. The first stage is a global, or at least regional, workshop to be held virtually. Should the COVID-19 situation permit, the second stage would be physical events targeting 10 active formulators per location in different target nations in Asia.

A new feed specialist, Wittaya Aqua,has been hired to replace USSEC's retiring long-term feed specialist support, Aqua-Food Technologies.  This new feed specialist we hope will help to inform and train the industry on better formulationapproaches based on nutrientsandoptimizedfeed milling. 

USSEC has also helped to develop demonstration farms using the In-Pond Raceway System (IPRS) technology, which commercially has seen over 7,000 units built in China, over 300 in Vietnam, and are now expanding on in other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and the Philippines. Training-wise, we have been partnering with ProgressusAgriSchools in Thailand to conduct virtual shortcourses on IPRS, available now on demand.

Regarding offshore cage farming, USSEC sees it as it as the future of marine fish production in Southeast Asia. Offshore farming is already very popular worldwide. Compared with Norway with a population of five million people which produces 1.5 million tonnes of salmon, Southeast Asia with over 650 million people only produces about 700,000 tonnes of marine fish through aquaculture. There is considerable room for growth considering the huge demand for marine fish in Southeast Asia and the world. USSEC is also encouraging industry associations to formto target volume productionof marine fish. My colleague Hsiang Pin Lan is the USSEC Asia Marine Specialist (Taiwan) and is leading the activities to promote offshore marine fish cages andencourage formation of aregional marine fish association.

Finally, for shrimp, we are conductingeducationalprograms in April and September this year, as well as conducting a demonstration utilising smart, automated feeding technologyfor enhanced shrimpperformance and growth.

These are all examples of the type of work USSEC does to bring new and relevant knowledge to the global aquaculture industry.


(From left) Lukas Manomaitis; Nguyen Thi Thuy Uyen (Trudy, former USSEC Southern/Central Vietnam Technical Manager); Hsiang Pin Lan (USSEC Asia Marine Specialist – based in Taiwan);ChuchaiKanjanamayoon (USSEC ThailandTechnical Manager); Levy L.Manalac (USSEC Philippines Technical Manager and Southeast Asian Demonstration Coordinator); Pamudi (USSEC Indonesia Technical Manager and Shrimp Initiative Lead); Bui Ngoc Thanh (USSEC Northern/Central Vietnam Technical Manager)
All rights reserved. No part of the report may be reproduced without permission from eFeedLink.
Video >

Follow Us