The first commercial quantities of omega-3 oils Nuseed grown from canola in the US are ready to be sold in the global aquaculture market.
And Nufarm’s subsidiary plans to double production this year to quickly build up supplies of oil, usually made from fish like salmon or trout.
However, it can take a few years for Nuseed’s Aquaterra branded product to be grown in Australia.
Omega-3 oils play important roles in human retinal and brain development, eye health, and heart disease prevention.
However, according to Brent Zacharias, executive director of the Nuseed Group, there is already a shortage of these oils in the human diet due to a lack of their main source: fish.
Salmon get their oil from smaller, fatty fish in the food chain – anchovies and herrings – which in turn get their oil from algae.
“There is only so much we can fish out of the sea,” said Zacharias.
With that in mind, a decade ago, Nuseed teamed up with the CSIRO and Grains Research and Development Corporation to study how marine genetics can be extracted from seaweed and converted into canola seeds.
The research at these bio-factories has paid off. Nuseed has just completed processing its first commercial omega-3 oil, grown from 14,000 acres of canola in the United States for sale to aquaculture farms around the world.
Nuseed believes it can more than double its omega-3 oil production in 10 years by making the same oils from canola for feeding to fish or for direct processing in the human supplement market.
The company has a brand for human consumption, also made in canola called Nutriterra.
But it was a few years before this product was launched in the nutraceutical market.
The most common forms of omega-3 oils in the human supplement market were eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are often found in capsule form in pharmacies.
Mr. Zacharias said DHA has often been fortified in baby formula mixes because it is considered essential for a toddler’s brain and cognitive development.
“It’s one of the essential fatty acids in our diet,” he said.
“But the world needs twice as much of it in the next 10 years.”
Mr. Zacharias said Nuseed has applied for government permits to grow the Aquaterra canola plants in various countries around the world.
Nuseed already had the necessary permits to grow rapeseed in Australia but focused on early production in the US.
The by-product of rapeseed meal was a valuable, high-protein fodder.
Because the omega-3 canola is a genetically modified crop, Nuseed is currently applying for government approval in the United States to use the by-product in animal feed.
Mr. Zacharias said Nuseed sees salmon farming in Chile as one of the main markets for the canola-derived omega-3 product.
“Then we see other parts of South America, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and different parts of Europe as markets,” he said.
Omega-3 oil from canola plants is not yet approved for sale in the United States, but it is in Australia.
Nuseed doesn’t have enough omega-3 oil to sell to Australia yet and sees Chile as its most profitable market.
Until then, Australian salmon farmers will continue to source their omega-3 oils from anchovies and herrings.
When salmon farmers have access to Aquaterra Oil at some point, they add a small amount to their feed mix.
The oil replicates in the fish and there is the potential to produce and market salmon with a higher omega-3 content.
Mr Zacharias said making omega-3 oils from rapeseed is more sustainable than sourcing it from fish.
“For every hectare of canola, 10-12 tons of small oily fish – anchovies and herrings – are substituted for that oil to feed salmon,” he said.
“We make sure that we don’t over-fish the oceans.”