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April 21, 2014


New Microbial Shrimp Feed Ingredient


Over the last 10 years, scientists at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) have developed Novacq, a feed additive that provides a critical bioactive molecule that improves the growth and health of shrimp.


In pond trials, Novacq demonstrated a 30 percent increase in the growth rate of farmed shrimp compared to conventional fishmeal-based feed! Including Novacq in shrimp feed has shown that fish meal and fish oil can be completely replaced, potentially freeing shrimp feeds from reliance on wild fishery resources.


On March 13, 2014, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), posted an interview by Pip Courtney about Novacq to its webpage.  Here are some excerpts from that interview:


Pip Courtney: The potential global market for Novacq is enormous.  CSIRO has awarded one feed company in each country the rights to make and sell Novacq.  Here, the country’s only commercial shrimp feed company, Ridley Corporation, has the license for Australia and overseas.  The domestic shrimp feed market is small, a modest 8,000 metric tons a year, but Ridley has its eyes on the world’s major shrimp producer—Asia.


Ridley Aqua-Feed’s Bob Harvey: This is multi-million dollar opportunity for our company.  Once you start getting into Southeast Asia, you’re talking millions of metric tons.  Australia, I believe, grows something like 0.16 percent of the world’s shrimp, so we’re very, very small.  It’s has been a long journey commercializing Novacq, but we know the prize is significant.


Pip Courtney: The Novacq recipe is a closely-guarded secret.  But Dr. Nigel Preston, who leads the research team at CSIRO that developed Novacq, says it’s based on microscopic marine organisms.


Nigel Preston: Because marine microbial organisms are so abundant, one would have thought that the world would have paid more attention to them, but their misfortune is to be so small that we can’t see them.  ...They are a significant component of the natural diet of shrimp at every stage of their life history.


Pip Courtney: The first job for Dr. Preston’s team, which included Dr. Brett Glencross, was to breed the marine microbial organisms in captivity.


Pip Courtney: What do the marine microbial organisms do in the ocean?


Brett Glencross: They do a range of things in the ocean, but one of the key ones—the one that we’ve learnt to understand and harness—is to take waste carbon from substances like wood and grass, combine them with nitrogen excreted by fish and other marine animals, and use them to build their own bodies and multiply.  So, really it’s the bacteria that are the cleaners of the environment.


Pip Courtney: What’s in that bucket that we saw being poured into the marine microbial organisms?


Brett Glencross: I can’t tell you that.  That’s subject to some confidential arrangements that we have made with companies around the world.


Pip Courtney: Is it food for the microbes?


Brett Glencross: Yes, it’s a range of various inorganic and organic additives that we add to stimulate the production of the bacteria.  We grow them in indoor tanks and then in outdoor ponds at CSIRO’s Bribie Island facility near Brisbane.


Pip Courtney: How the marine microbes are harvested is a secret, too, but we do know that they’re ready for processing after about 40 days culture.


Brett Glencross: We de-water the product, harvest it as a sludge or mud, dry it, mill it and then add it to shrimp feed.


Pip Courtney: If Novacq significantly improves profitability, Bob Harvey expects new investors, like the group behind plans for a mega shrimp farm in Western Australia, to move from planning to doing.


Bob Harvey: The mega project that you’re referring to, Sea Dragon up on the Northwest Shelf, it’s a natural fit, and obviously we’re having discussions with the people behind that farm in case it comes to fruition.


Pip Courtney: Ridley hopes to have Novacq on the market next year.  With the license comes the secret instructions on how to grow, harvest and process the marine microbes.  Ridley has trial ponds on Australia’s Gold Coast, but hopes to use its customers’ shrimp ponds in their offseason when they lie fallow.


Bob Harvey: For six months of the year, a lot of the shrimp ponds in Queensland are empty, so we can grow our microbes the.  It’s golden opportunity, a win-win situation, for the shrimp farms and us.  Over the next two years, we’re prepared to invest a lot of money in this research because we’re very confident that the prize is there.


Information: Dr. Nigel Preston, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Theme Leader, Breed Engineering Food Futures Flagship, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (phone: +61-7-3833-5957, email, webpage


Information: Bob Harvey, Ridley Corporation, P.O. Box 16187, Collins Street West, Melbourne, Victoria 8007, Australia (phone +61-3-8624-6500, fax 61-3-8624-6514, email, webpage


Sources: 1. ABC(Australian Broadcasting Corporation), Landline/Super Food.  Pip Courtney.  March 13, 2014.  2. (a free, online newsletter about the feeds used in fish and shellfish farming).  Editor, Suzi Fraser Dominy (  Australia—Super Food.  Issue 14, Volume 14, April 18, 2014.

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