Johan Verreth: "Aquaculture needs lucid ideas and concepts”

Tension rises in the Nutreco Feed Tech Challenge. Great ideas for feedtech innovation keep pouring in. With the Challenge well underway, it is time to present the jury members who will eventually pick the winner(s) of the Challenge. In this Q&A interview, jury member Prof. Dr. Johan Verreth of Wageningen University explains why aquaculture is in dire need of what he describes as “lucid, clever, out of the box ideas and concepts”.

Prof. Johan Verreth is an expert in the field of the development of aquaculture and aquaculture farming systems. The Netherlands’ top scientist in aquaculture is leading the Aquaculture & Fisheries Group (AFI) of Wageningen University. According to the AFI mission, it “studies the aquatic organisms and systems in a world dominated by changing production goals, environmental (ecosystem) conditions and changing human needs.”

 Are these “changing human needs” key in your quest and in your decision to join the Challenge jury?

“Most certainly. Changing human needs are essential for the world. These needs certainly define the big question at hand: how can we feed the world in 50 to 100 years from now? Sustainability is becoming increasingly important, and not only because it is in the consumer’s mind. In fact, the future of our planet is at stake. With the world population growing and with natural resources, such as agricultural land – becoming more scarce, we simply cannot afford to invest in fish feed that is not sustainable. My concern is the so-called food-feed dilemma. We need to safeguard what can be used as food for human consumption and use that what is inconsumable (by man) for feed; that is the big challenge ahead.”

 In what areas can fish farming benefit from the creativity of the Challenge participants?

“Animal health needs breakthrough concepts. Furthermore, we need to boost the nutritional value of fish farm products, to keep consumers from becoming disappointed and from turning away from these products.”

 Is there any specific challenge you have in mind?

“There are so many puzzles to solve. For example, salmon lice infections are hard to combat. What we are waiting and hoping for are solutions to help salmon protect itself against the lice. As vaccinating is no option, a natural, sustainable solution that does not require the use of chemicals is what the salmon farms around the world need.”

 What is the unique quality you are hoping to see at the event?

“Creativity! Lucid, sparkling ideas that instantly attract our attention. I know one when I see one. I have my fingers crossed…”