Unravelling the complexity of concerns in circular food systems includes studies into trade-offs between agriculture and aquaculture and studies into new forms of private and public sector governance, to manage biological and climate risks and encourage sustainable aquaculture production.
Both integrated multitrophic aquaculture (IMTA) and low trophic aquaculture (LTA) of bivalves or seaweed in the marine environment rely on nutrients and trace elements dispersed into the open water, accumulating in valuable biomass. This biomass can be used in local or regional food production, closing loops as part of a circular approach.
Ecological intensification is a concept that relies on enabling aquaculture ponds to contribute significantly to the diet of the farmed fish or shrimp. Specific diets are formulated to both stimulate primary production and balance the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, reducing production costs and environmental impact. Field trials in the tropics show high potential for scaling of these local food systems.
Future Food Systems
In fish farming, feed formulation depends on many factors, including nutrient/energy requirements, feed costs, feed conversion rate (FCR), (global) environmental impact, resilience to disease and more. Multi-objective formulation of fish feeds is only one way to help formulate more sustainable aquafeeds from a broader system perspective.
Governance and Economy
Professor Simon Bush, at the Environmental Policy group (ENP), focuses on the design of governance arrangements for global sustainable seafood. At Wageningen Economic Research (WEcR), we develop economic models for sustainable development of aquaculture.
Freshwater fish contribute 75% of edible aquaculture volume to global aquatic food production. Well-functioning ponds supply essential nutrients to the culture species and provide consumers with safe and healthy products. The ecological intensification feeding concept of the Aquaculture and Fisheries group (AFI) enhances the role of natural food in ponds while using local feed ingredients and replaces more expensive or less sustainable ingredients like fish meal in the diet. Feeds are formulated for both, the needs of the culture species and nutrient flows in pond ecosystems.
Low Trophic Aquaculture (LTA)
A widely recognised ecosystem service of molluscan aquaculture is the assimilation of excess nutrients from human activities, including aquaculture of fish in IMTA systems. Researchers at the Aquaculture and Fisheries group (AFI) and at Wageningen Marine Research (WMR) collaborate on interactions between seaweed and shellfish innovations in the offshore domain.
Bivalves and sponges deliver important ecosystem services. They can function as a biological filter by means of their extensive pumping capacities. On the other hand, they can also absorb viruses, bacteria, toxic algae, and polluted organic particles from the ambient environment, requiring studies into food safety risks.