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Stunning trial transforms smolts into premium pet food

05 April 2021

Stunning trial transforms smolts into premium pet food

Ace Aquatec has helped convert a waste by-product into a valuable new food source with its electric smolt stunner, an adaptation of the award-winning Ace Aquatec Stunner.

In a trial with Hendrix Genetics, a leading smolt supplier to salmon farmers, fish due to be culled for quality reasons were euthanised in the stunner instead of being treated with chemicals. The protein rich salmon could then be sold as premium pet food, rather than sent for incineration, the only option with chemically anaesthetised smolt which are unviable for consumption.

The Hendrix trial was part of an international collaboration with New Zealand King Salmon, which has had successful results with its own Ace Aquatec Smolt Stunner. A smaller and more portable version of the humane stunning technology, the smolt stunner uses a different form of electronics to ensure that all the fish are killed and not simply stunned, as happens with larger fish prior to slaughter.

NZ King Salmon was looking to expand its pet food division to meet increasing demand in global markets, and the partnership with Hendrix provided a ready supply of smolts.

For Hendrix, the project offered an opportunity to dispose of excess smolts from its freshwater sites in a more sustainable way, said Jarl van den Berg, general manager of Hendrix Genetics in Scotland.

‘Chemically culled fish are often disposed of at a high cost so we needed to reduce wastage and improve our environmental footprint,’ he said.

‘We adopted Ace Aquatec’s Humane Stunner Universal as it is the best solution in the market in terms of animal welfare standards and environmental impact.'

‘The in-water electric stunner has the ability to cull fish without using chemicals, and this has opened up many new potential supply streams for our culled fish, including premium pet food, fish oils, and other food production. It has transformed our processing and stopped fish going to landfill.

‘It has also allowed us to talk to large pet food suppliers about the efficacy of our supply chain and welfare standards. Consumer habits are changing at pace, and understanding those changes is critical as we prioritise how to recalibrate to meet the changed circumstances driven by Covid.’

Other Scottish salmon farmers are now trialling the portable smolt stunner, with the by-product destined for the growing pet food sector.

Ace Aquatec Sales Manager Andrew Thomson-Chittenden said: ‘People see pets as members of their family and the pandemic has expanded their role as companions too. The global pet food market is anticipated to gain impetus from the ever increasing demand for natural and premium products.

‘We’re seeing enquiries from around the globe on how companies can optimise their operations to sell smolt, as well as broodstock, as a natural, healthy, and safe ingredient in pet food products.

‘Farmers want to see their hard work come to fruition, rather than literally going to waste. And with electric stunning, there are opportunities to look at new ethical markets for this by-product. It’s a win win for everybody.’