A simple low-cost bean, grown in the UK, could replace imported soya and fishmeal used as feed for salmon, pigs and poultry.
With potentially major implications for the Scottish aquaculture and agriculture industries, as well as improved sustainability of farming in the UK, a project has been set up by a consortium of UK scientists and industry partners to investigate a range of benefits from faba beans.
The consortium has been awarded funding of almost £2.6 million by the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s national innovation agency.
Professor Gordon Bell, head of the Nutrition Analytical Service of the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, explained: “The production of salmon, pigs and poultry is over-reliant on imported soy protein and soybean meal, which have significant sustainability and supply concerns. A simple, low cost process will separate faba beans into a protein concentrate suitable for use in salmon feeds, and a starch concentrate for use in pig and poultry feeds, and thus reduce reliance on imported soy protein, soybean meal and fishmeal in aquafeeds.
“In addition, the increased culture of beans will result in major reductions in the use of artificial fertilizers, which are made from fossil fuels, and instead rely on the nitrogen fixing properties of beans as a natural fertilizer and soil improver. Not only does this reduce fertilizer costs for the farmers but also has significant environmental benefits related to reduced carbon and nitrogen usage.”
Faba beans – a type of broad bean – have been cultivated for thousands of years and are now grown in temperate areas of the world, including many countries in Europe. Their botanical name is Vicia faba and they can also be sold as Windsor beans, broad beans, horse beans or field beans.
The project will also investigate the development of new bean strains specifically targeted to salmon production that requires higher-protein levels and lower anti-nutritional compounds than products used for non-ruminant animal production.
The four-year project is led by EWOS Ltd based near Bathgate and involves five other industrial partners - BioMar Ltd, WN Lindsay, Limagrain, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Ltd and Harbro Ltd - and five academic partners, the Universities of Stirling, Aberdeen and St Andrews, the James Hutton Institute and the Scottish Agricultural College.