However, it will likely be a few years before such products are brought to market, said Einar Wathne, president of Cargill Animal Nutrition’s aquaculture business.
However, the company grows canola plants that produce eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a closed loop.
“Aquaculture continues to grow in step with population growth and economic development,” he told FeedNavigator. “Demand for omega-3 oil will inevitably exceed supply.”
The potential for a herbal form of omega-3 oil could aid expansion in the aquaculture industry and be a way to supplement the oil extracted from fisheries, he said.
The development would also improve the overall sustainability of agricultural fish production by relieving pressure on wild fish populations, Wathne said.
“Such a replacement option is important to meet market demands,” he said. “EPA / DHA canola will enable this vital industry to continue growing.”
Research partnership with BASF.
Cargill’s work on omega-3 canola production began in 2011 in collaboration with Germany’s BASF Plant Science, Wathne said.
The canola in question is being tested on-site in Montana and managed by a Cargill research facility in the same region.
“Cargill has just begun construction of a research station near Great Falls, Montana to support plant breeding, agronomy and closed-cycle crop production for EPA / DHA canola,” he added.
The partnership between Cargill and BASF includes an agreement to work together to commercialize the omega-3-producing canola plants in 2020, Wathne said.
If the products are publicly available, they will be marketed through the company’s current system, he said.
In addition to aquaculture and animal nutrition, other potential markets for a sustainable omega-3 source include food and beverages, dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals.
However, Cargill isn’t the only company interested in finding a substitute for the EPA and DHA components of fish oil.
Bunge Limited and TerraVia announced the development of a DHA ingredient derived from algae. Archer Daniels Midland also released a DHA-rich fish oil alternative in June.
Skretting spoke to us in October about the result of the collaboration between DSM and Evonik. These companies have made an EPA and DHA rich seaweed oil. And Alltech made an algae-based DHA product. It is being reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In addition, a group of researchers in Canada investigated the use of camelina as a means of making a substitute for the fatty acids in fish oil. We reported on their work in July.