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by Warren G. Dominy, Ph. D.

The Aquatic Feeds section of the Nutrition Department conducts applied research focused on developing defined feeds that meet nutrient requirements of the cultured animals and defined processing parameters for the equipment that manufactures these feeds, for both the commercial aquaculture sector and the institute’s own research.

The information generated in the Aquatic Feeds Processing Laboratory is essential for formulating and manufacturing cost effective, nutritionally complete, highly digestible, water stable, and environmentally friendly feeds. The research includes identification, analysis, and practical testing of ingredients to determine applicability in aquatic feeds.

Analyzing ingredients includes determining nutrient profiles, quality, digestibility, binding characteristics, and costs.

Physical analysis and characterization of the ingredients and the finished products are very important to aquatic feeds. Particle size reduction and the uniformity of mix are two important parameters measured. Aquatic animals in early life stages are much smaller and eat tiny amounts of feed, compared with the smallest animal in the terrestrial feed industry, the 40-gram baby chick.
We harvest market-size shrimp at 15-25 grams. (An ounce is 25 grams.) Imagine stocking a 1-gram shrimp and feeding it 10 percent of its body weight per day.

If the feed contains 20 or more ingredients, those ingredients have to be ground down to a particle size small enough so that every ingredient in the correct proportions can be uniformly mixed and compacted into a package weighing only 0.1 gram.

It is also important that the feed ingredients in these 0.1-gram packages do not disintegrate when placed in water, which would destroy the carefully balanced nutrient content of the feed. For these reasons, optimal processing parameters and equipment for manufacturing these types of feeds are also critically important.

In most feeds, the gelatinization of starches and the development and setting of wheat gluten in the feed manufacturing process will determine the water stability of the feed. Measuring and documenting the parameters of time, temperature, and moisture in the feed manufacturing process for each formulation is important to maintaining a consistently water-stable aquatic feed.

All feeds manufactured in the Aquatic Feeds Processing Laboratory are subjected to a rigorous quality control program that ensures feeds meet various industry and research standards for physical, sanitary, and nutritional quality and content, prior to feeding. Nutritional checks include proximate analysis (protein, fat, ash, moisture, and fiber), major and trace minerals, amino acid and fatty acid profiles. The physical parameters tested include ingredient particle size, uniformity of mix, pellet specific density, durability index, attractiveness, palatability, and water stability.

The Nutrition Department welcomes HPU researchers and students for collaboration and internship opportunities. E-mail Gary Karr, director of Communications and Education, at gkarr@oceanic institute.org.



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