Barentz are partners at Feed Additives 2018.
Seaweed and the power of blends
There are thousands of different seaweed species – or macro algae in general: just like with the plants on land we see this abundance of varieties below the water surface. This opens a whole new world of possibilities when we start using these sea weeds in our feed (and food) formulations. Each sea weed species brings specific functionalities and can be leveraged to target specific applications.
There are already some sea weeds sold onto the feed market, however these are mostly single species and from wild harvest. Our products are blends of different sea weed species that have been cultivated. The power of a blend is that we are then able to combine functionalities of the species used, while ate the same time also controlling other properties such as iodine and arsenic levels. Moreover, by measuring each batch’s contents, we are able to effectively blend toward a stable end product. Which is basically not possible when just using single species that are, as with all natural products, subject to variations in their contents. As for cultivation compared to wild harvest: by using cultivated sea weeds only, we are better able to control the quality of the ingredients as we know exactly in what waters (by constant measuring their quality), the sea weeds were grown. This ensures we can supply an exciting functional product for several specific applications at the highest quality standards.
Our seaweed products contain mixtures of different macro algae with a unique composition of bioactive compounds. The most effective seaweed species are selected for use in our seaweed blends to target specific applications. For each animal application a different blend of seaweed is selected, because of different requirements for its content profile for different animal species. The seaweeds used are produced in South Asia and Europe on a large scale to guarantee reliable supply, year-round.
A very exiting functional ingredient because of the polysaccharides
Many people only know seaweed as a nutritional ingredient, but it is more than that. Seaweed is even mostly a functional ingredient. It contains high levels of bioactive polysaccharides as alginates, fucoidans, ulvan, agar, laminarin and carrageenans. Those polysaccharides have a positive effect on animal health, because of their antibacterial and antiviral effects. The animal’s immune system is also stimulated and hence improved.
However of course there are also nutritional components that come as an extra to its functional properties. Sea weeds are also a natural source of protein and B-vitamins. Complemented with other unique compounds like mannitol and fucoxanthin. On top of that: seaweed is far richer than land plants in trace elements and minerals (up to 35%).
Trials with pigs have shown a positive effect on feed efficiency, weight gain and feed intake, and a reduction of mortality and less diarrhoea. Those trials also show that seaweed blends are an excellent alternative to antibiotic growth promoters and can lower the usage of zinc oxide.
Trials with dairy cows have shown a positive effect on milk protein, milk fat and milk production (litters). Also a lower level of somatic cells was counted in the seaweed groups compared to control group. From literature it is known that some seaweed species lowers the methane gas emission.
Many more trials have been done on poultry, horses, beef, dogs, shrimp and other aquatic species. Positive effects on fertility, shiny coats, increased stamina, improvement of hoof quality, enhanced disease resistance have been monitored. A lot of different benefits have been measured and many of them can be attributed to an improvement of animal health.
Sustainability and sea weed
One of the great benefits of sea weeds in general is that they do not require land to grow on, nor use any fresh water. Which are two of the many challenges we face when we think of how to feed the world in the future. Sea weed as such is a sustainable alternative to many land-grown plants. The fact that it is a natural source of many minerals and vitamins also helps reduce pollution when traditional products can be substituted. And lastly, there are even observations of significant reduction of methane gas emissions by dairy cows
Then there is the added sustainability benefit of single species focussed cultivated sea weeds, they produce much less waste compared to wild harvested ones that also “produce” species that are not needed in the final product. As a result of the cultivation, we are also able to constantly monitor the water quality for the plot where the sea weed is grown. Boats and fishermen are not allowed in the cultivation waters and because of the monitoring of its quality it can even be guaranteed and certified as organic. Our sea weed blends are thus also available as EU certified organic at a premium.
Regarding the use and benefits of sea weeds, there is still a world of possibilities for us to discover and unlock. However we believe that sea weeds are already a very exciting, valuable and future-proof ingredient that help us improve the way we feed our animals.