It is a Tuesday morning in September, and 450 fish are being packed up and will soon be on their way from the fish lab at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in Ås to the research facilities at the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) in Solbergstrand by the Oslo Fjord. During the next five weeks the fish will gradually be exposed to seawater while being fed novel feed based on sustainable resources – research right at the heart of Foods of Norway. The protein in their feed will be partially replaced with yeast grown on sugars from Norwegian spruce trees and by-products from the poultry industry.
In Ås, the fish are weighed and carefully placed in large plastic bags filled with water and oxygen, before being placed in the back of a van that will take them to the research facilities in Solbergstrand just outside the little coastal town of Drøbak. NMBU and Foods of Norway are fortunate to have access to their own facilities at NIVA, providing opportunities for unique trials, monitoring and dissection.
The 12-kilometre drive to the research institute at Solbergstrand is a leisurely one. The winding country road takes us through a short stretch of tall spruce trees, a reminder of what we are doing here. The purpose of this trial is to document the use of feed made from trees, and to see the effects this feed can have on the intestinal health of the fish as well as their health in general. The fact that this experiment is performed while transitioning them from freshwater to saltwater, their most vulnerable phase, makes the findings even more interesting.
The yeast used in this experiment has been cultivated by Foods of Norway in the biorefinery laboratory NorBioLab at NMBU from residual biomass from Norwegian forestry and hydrolysed protein from by-products from the poultry industry. From this yeast researchers and technicians in the centre have manufactured the feed in the laboratory at NMBU’s Faculty of Life Sciences.
Jeleel is responsible for the trial, which is part of his doctoral degree. Together with master’s student student Dominic D. Mensah and researcher Sergio Rocha he makes up the team transporting the fish from Ås to Solbergstrand.
Upon arriving at NIVA, the bags with the fish are carefully carried into a room with 18 tanks, each holding 25 fish. Foods of Norway has unique access to this room, which for this experiment is priceless, says Jeleel. The facilities are right on the shore, and the use of these tanks can help simulate the water quality and ecology the fish would normally live in.
- When using these facilities, we can conduct the trial in similar conditions as in the sea. In this way, knowledge gained from this trial will be available to stakeholders in Norwegian salmon farming, such as fish farmers and feed manufacturers, in order to improve yield and overall productivity, he emphasizes.
In about five weeks, the 450 fish will be dissected and analysed. The research team will look at the microbiotic culture in their intestines, but also study immune responses in the spleen and head-kidney for indications relating to health. However, until then 450 small salmon must be cared for and fed. Every day – for five weeks. The amount of feed they digest must be monitored and documented daily by Jeleel or one of his colleagues, by measuring the amount of feed falling to the bottom of the tank.
Based on this trial, Jeleel and his colleagues in Foods of Norway will be able to document ground-breaking research. Meanwhile, the fish swim around in their tanks, munching on food made in a lab in Ås, totally unaware of the importance of their existence.