April 30, 2024


Singapore scientists develop sustainable fish feed from soybean processing wastewater


Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore, have achieved a breakthrough in sustainable aquaculture by replacing half of the fishmeal protein in farmed Asian seabass diets with a "single cell protein" derived from microbes in soybean processing wastewater.


Published in Scientific Reports, the findings signify a significant advancement in more environmentally friendly fish farming practices.


The research, led by scientists from the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE) at NTU and Temasek Polytechnic's Aquaculture Innovation Centre (AIC), introduces a novel approach to aquaculture production. Traditionally, farmed aquaculture species heavily rely on feed made from wild-caught fish, contributing to overfishing and environmental concerns.


Single cell protein, cultivated from food processing wastewater, presents a sustainable alternative. Wastewaters from soybean processing contain beneficial microorganisms essential for fish growth, offering a resource previously overlooked in aquaculture practices.


Dr Ezequiel Santillan, senior research fellow at SCELSE, said their research represents a significant stride towards sustainable aquaculture. By harnessing microbial communities from soybean processing wastewater, they have demonstrated the feasibility of producing single cell protein as a viable alternative protein source in fish feed, reducing reliance on fishmeal and promoting industry sustainability.


This waste-to-resource approach aligns with efforts to address food security and waste reduction, supporting the transition to a circular economy as outlined in the United Nations Paris Agreement.


The study also complements AIC's commitment to enhancing food security and resilience, particularly as the aquaculture industry aims to meet 30% of Singapore's nutritional needs by 2030. AIC has been actively promoting innovative aquaculture production methods.


To demonstrate the efficacy of their approach, the research team incorporated soybean processing wastewater into bioreactors, cultivating single cell protein under controlled conditions. Following successful cultivation, they conducted feeding trials with young Asian seabass, comparing growth rates between traditional fishmeal diets and those supplemented with single cell protein.


Results indicated comparable growth rates between both groups, with the single cell protein diet showing more consistent growth. NTU Professor Stefan Wuertz emphasized the potential benefits of such diets for fish growth uniformity, suggesting avenues for further research.


Dr Diana Chan, head of Aquaculture Innovation Centre at Temasek Polytechnic, hailed the promising results, noting the alternative protein source's potential to address the increasing costs and sustainability challenges associated with fishmeal.


Moving forward, the research team plans to expand their trials, exploring higher fishmeal replacement levels and incorporating additional aquaculture species and food processing wastewater types.

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