Fork to Farm: Sustainable fish farming in the Netherlands

In the ‘Fork to Farm’ project, fish farmers are assessing the market for sustainably farmed Dutch fish.

What quality of farmed fish do consumers want and can Dutch aquaculture meet this demand?

Dutch aquaculture is going through a difficult period. Competition from abroad is stiff, the price of inputs (feed and energy) is high, but wholesale and retail prices are falling. As a result, the number of fish farmers has dropped in recent years. The Fisheries Innovation Platform, set up by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, is intended to reverse this trend. It has asked fish farmers and scientists to look for new opportunities. 

For this project a consortium of fish growers, the Dutch Food Retail Association, the Kennermervis Group and scientists at Wageningen Aquaculture joined forces. They made a study of the requirements for sustainable fish farming and did a survey to see which new kinds of sustainably farmed fish stand a good chance of being commercially successful.

The study has resulted in a handbook for sustainable fish farming and a new fish for Dutch aquaculture. The study revealed that there is a market in the Netherlands for high-quality fish that is meaty and has a strong flavour, similar to tuna and swordfish. Consumers are willing to pay a high price for this. The Australian yellowtail kingfish seems to fit the bill. Experiments in Zeeland have shown that it is possible to farm this fish in recirculation systems that are profitable and sustainable. The first company to adopt this commercially is SILT, based in the harbour at IJmuiden. The fish will be available commercially in December 2011, by which time the company expects to be running at full capacity.