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SINTEF sets up production plant for fish-fry feed

This test-tube is full of tiny sand-hoppers that are destined to become feed for fry. Research director Gunvor Øie displays the test-tube, watched by research scientist Andreas Hagemann, investment manager Jostein Bjøndal of SINTEF's investment company Sinvent, and Rune Bjerke, managing director of C-Feed, which will turn the feed into an industrial product. Photo: SINTEF/Thor Nielsen
Live start-feed, cultivated in Trondheim, has enabled large numbers of lobster and tuna fry to survive in tanks. Now, SINTEF is setting up a production plant that will supply the world market with the feed.

With the establishment of the Norwegian company
C-Feed,  small copepods are destined to become a new Norwegian industrial product. For several years now, SINTEF has been cultivating this tiny crustacean species and serving it as baby-food to new-born fry of a several marine species. And with great success, too.

SINTEF’s commercialisation company Sinvent envisages an annual global market for this type of feed of almost NOK 2 billion (Euro 244 million) in the course of about ten years. The feed should make it possible to farm a number of species that no-one has managed to bring up on an industrial scale until now.

“Many people all over the world have tried to farm new fish species, but without success, and it is usually the fry stage that has been the problem. We believe that our feed can provide a stable supply of fry of new species for cultivation, for both fish farming and the aquarium industry,” says research director Gunvor Øie at SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture. 

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These tiny copepods are the “baby food” that SINTEF is cultivating as feed for the tuna fry. Photo: SINTEF/Jan Ove Evjemo

Promising results 

C-Feed AS

  • The newly established company produces live feed that just-hatched larvae of marine fish species can eat as soon as they have used up their egg-sacs.
  • While salmon fry can eat dry feed from day one, marine species need live start-feed.
  • In the wild, the fry of marine species eat certain types of copepods, better known as sand-hoppers. There are several thousand species of copepods.
  • The feed cultivated by C-Feed is a copepod called Acartia tonsa.
  • C-Feed estimates that in the course of ten years, the global market for this type of feed will be around NOK 2 billion (Euro 244 million). Of the total, about half will go to species already being farmed and half to new species for cultivation.
  • The new company has been established with an equity capital of NOK 3 million (Euro 366 000). The seed investment fund SINTEF Venture IV initially invests NOK 2.6 million and the management company CoFounder NOK 400,000. Other owners will be invited to join in due course.

In laboratory trials of the feed, SINTEF’s aquaculture scientists doubled the survival rates of lobster fry that had hatched out in aquaculture tanks. They are also the first group in the world who have managed to bring up large numbers of well-developed tuna fry.

“We have also obtained promising laboratory-scale results with fry of halibut, cod and ballan wrasse, the last of these being a species that “cleans” salmon by removing lice from their skin. The next step will be to try out the feed on squid and on members of the grouper family, which are highly prized (and priced) in the East. Given the level of interest in the market for the species we have already studied and those we are about to start on, we have complete faith in the viability of the production plant we are setting up,” says Øie.

Money from seed investment fund 

The majority owner of C-Feed is SINTEF’s recently established seed investment fund SINTEF Venture IV, in which the European Investment Fund (IEF) and Sparebank1 SMN have invested capital, together with SINTEF.

The fund was established in January 2014, and C-Feed is the first investment to be done by SINTEF Venture IV.

Eggs and hatched copepods

C-Feed is starting life in rented premises at SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture in Trondheim, and will begin by relying on personnel hired in from this Institute.

The company will supply the fry-feed in the form of eggs and hatched copepods.

 “C-Feed will gradually scale up production here, and if demand increases as we hope it will, we may set up factories in other countries in the course of time,” says investment manager Jostein Bjøndal of Sinvent, SINTEF’s commercialisation company.

By Svein Tønseth

The SINTEF Venture IV seed investment fund

  •  The fund has an investment capital of NOK 209 million (Euro 25.5 million) and is an instrument for the development of viable new technology companies.
  • Besides SINTEF, the European Investment Fund (IEF) and Sparebank1 SMN have invested in the fund.
  • The European Investment Fund is supported by the European Union via its Competitiveness and Investment Framework Programme (CIP).