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Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine is the flagship publication of Grain Farmers of Ontario and a source of information for our province’s grain farmers. 

Feeding the aquaculture industry



SOYBEANS ARE A common feedstock for a wide range of agriculture — livestock ranging from dairy cattle to laying hens typically have soy or a soybean derivative incorporated in their feed, due largely in part to its high protein content. The same rings true for the aquaculture sector — although it’s a smaller market, soybeans are an important part of the nutrition of the aquatic species that are cultivated.


Dominique Bureau is a professor at the University of Guelph specializing in aquaculture nutrition. He says soybeans are the most used protein source in aquaculture feeds.

He says fish and shrimp require a high level of protein in their feed. Soybean meal contains 44 to 50 per cent protein, so it plays a large role in ensuring nutritional needs of the animals are met.

“Globally, soy is the most used protein in aquaculture — overall, aquaculture operations use about 40 million metric tonnes of feed per year, or approximately eight to 12 million metric tonnes of soybean products — meal, oil, lecithin, whole soybean.”


According to Bureau, there is a constant increase in aquaculture production globally. This growth is slower than initially anticipated in Canada, in part due to a complicated licensing process, relative lack of public support, and some logistical issues. However, Canada is a global leader in aquaculture science and technology.

Soybeans used in aquaculture feed production are sourced from a wide range of markets. Previously, there was an Ontario-based feed manufacturer but since its closure the majority of feed is imported from New Brunswick and British Columbia from feed manufacturers such as Skretting, a division of Nutreco, Cargill-Ewos and smaller, specialty manufacturers such as Taplow Feeds, Zeigler, and more.

Ontario aquaculture producers are using approximately 500-600 metric tonnes of soybean meal per year to feed their rainbow trout. Typically, soybeans are imported from around the world, including the United States, Brazil, Argentina, and India, depending on suppliers and market demand — some manufacturers prefer organic or non-GM soybeans.

Fish can be fed soybeans as soybean meal, similar to other livestock, but some fish species like salmon and trout are sensitive to anti-nutritional factors found in soy, such as soyasaponins. Feeding feed containing more than five to 10 per cent soybean meal results in inflammation of the intestine. Despite this inflammation, salmon can tolerate about 10 per cent soybean meal in their ration, while trout can tolerate roughly 15 per cent soybean meal. Soy protein concentrate is more easily tolerated by fish sensitive to soy, allowing for a larger percentage of soy in their diet.

Soy protein concentrate is created by using ethanol to extract oligosaccharides and some anti-nutritional factors from soy flakes. This results in a more suitable ingredient to feed aquaculture species sensitive to soy components.


Bureau is optimistic the Ontario and Canadian aquaculture sector will keep growing. He says Ontario and Canada aquaculture produce a high-quality product, and with increasing acceptance, hopes to see an increase in fish tonnage. This, in turn, would increase the market demand for suppliers, including feed manufacturers.

“Ontario has a great IP and specialty grade soybean market which could be used to develop the aquaculture market, and open up the possibility of selling specialty varieties to feed manufacturers globally.”

“Creating new opportunities for not only Ontario soybeans but all Ontario grains and oilseeds is a top priority for Grain Farmers of Ontario. With the increases in production we have been seeing year over year it is critical that new markets are being explored and developed to provide new marketing opportunities for farmers,” says Nicole Mackellar, manager of Market Development for Grain Farmers of Ontario.

“Aquaculture is a very new market for Grain Farmers of Ontario. We think there are tremendous opportunities with it, but further research and market analysis is needed to truly identify the specific opportunities for Ontario soybeans and Ontario farmers. This is something we are committed to doing on behalf of our farmer-members.” •


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