Pep4Fish is the name of the project that aims to explore innovative solutions to strengthen aquaculture fish production. By 2025, it is expected that diets will be created to increase the robustness of sea bass and bream and their ability to resist stress and bacterial infections. As part of the ambitious Blue Bioeconomy Pact, the project brings together multidisciplinary partners, from research to industry and promotes the circular economy. Researchers from the Centre for Biotechnology and Fine Chemistry of the Faculty of Biotechnology at the Universidade Católica are committed to developing new hydrolysates and advances have already made it possible to obtain the first poultry hydrolysates with evidence of antioxidant activity.
“The creation of new, more sustainable diets that promote the strengthening of fish, both in its resistance to diseases and in the final quality of the product that is sold to the consumer, will open up new perspectives for the future of aquaculture”, explains André Almeida, responsible for the Research Department of the ETSA Group – Empresa Transformadora de Byproducts Animal, remembering that the prevention and control of diseases will help to minimize economic losses in the sector.
With the growing demand for nutritious, healthy and safe food for human consumption, aquaculture is becoming increasingly important worldwide. Currently, it is already responsible for supplying half of the fish consumed globally.
The Pep4Fish project will respond to this growing demand. Through the use of animal by-products, such as fish, poultry and pork, and alternative resources such as insects, innovative products (hydrolysates) with added value will be created for the production of feed for sea bass and sea bream, capable of improving the health of fish and human nutrition, reducing food waste and conserving ocean resources.
Thus, the Pep4Fish project also takes an active role in the area of environmental sustainability. “It is a clear commitment to the circular economy. We are reducing waste, reusing and transforming by-products into food ingredients, in this case directed towards aquaculture diets”, advocates André Almeida.
The Pep4Fish project, included in the Blue Bioeconomy Pact and funded by the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR) worth around 21.7 million euros, is led by the ETSA Group and has the participation of nine partners, including research and companies: AgroGrIN Tech, B2E – Collaborative Laboratory for the Blue Bioeconomy (B2E CoLAB), CIIMAR – Interdisciplinary Center for Marine and Environmental Research, ITS – Byproduct Transformation Industry (ETSA); Seaculture (Jerónimo Martins), Savinor and Sorgal (Soja Portugal), Sebol (ETSA) and Universidade Católica Portuguesa.
In addition to scientific research, the project promotes an open and collaborative approach with industrial applicability, namely with a significant investment in companies, to increase the necessary productive capacity. Thus, with this project it will be possible to develop two new diets for the industry, one for sea bass and the other for sea bream, based on four new hydrolysates produced in Portugal.
The first tests are already underway at CIIMAR. Three hydrolysates with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties were selected for a first test with sea bass. In this trial, researchers are monitoring the development of animals, looking to observe improvements in their health, growth and resistance to adverse conditions.
At the Universidade Católica Portuguesa, which undertakes the development of new hydrolysates, advances have already made it possible to obtain the first poultry hydrolysates with evidence of antioxidant activity.
Until 2025, the Pep4Fish project will continue to explore and deepen the use of hydrolysates in aquaculture, with the aim of improving the sustainable production of marine fish.