August 8th, 2017 by paul-aquanor

Innovation Award finalists: Planktonic

Planktonic supplies technology that we know mainly from science fiction: They cryopreserve living animal plankton and let the fish farmers revive the plankton when the fish is to be fed. For the researchers behind the technology, this work has been long and complicated – but for the fish farmer it is quick and simple to use. 

Planktonic is a Norwegian company that develop and produce livefeed.

Just how Planktonic manages to capture large amounts of living animal plankton, cryopreserve the plankton, store, transport and then revive it, is a well-guarded secret. But it is beyond doubt that they have succeeded, and on an industrial scale.

A big problem in farming of marine species
Planktonic has a good reason to keep their cards close to the chest. The believe they have found the answer  to one of the greatest problems in marine fish farming: Without live feed rich in essential marine fatty acids, mortality is too high and growth rates too low in relation to the potential that the fish has.

Planktonic has for over a decade worked on the technology and methods that allow them to harvest, store and transport live animal plankton directly to the fish farmer. The use, i.a., cryopreservation technology. Cryopreservation is a way in which you can freeze living organisms without damaging or killing the organism, and then later revive it.

Artemia is the most used live feed in the industry today.

The problem about marine aquaculture today is that artemia, which is the species that fish farmers use as live feed, originates in salt inland lakes – not in the ocean. This plankton must be hatched and cultivated in tanks on the fish farming premises, where they are fed large amounts of algae. The juvenile fish then eat the artemia and in this way get the nutrition from the algae. To spend time growing the fish feed requires a lot of time and money for the fish farmers. In addition, it is well known that artemia is a source of many un-wanted bacteria and viruses in the tanks where they are being cultivated.

Revolutionary development
Another problem with artemia is that this plankton is low on the important marine fatty acids, which make the fish grow fast, and has a good health. “There is a lot of evolution in aquaculture, – a constant flow of incremental improvements” says CEO of Planktonic, Mr. Rune Husby. “But this, on the other hand, is a revolution. To deliver live feed, rich in marine fatty acids, directly from the sea in a way that is simple to use for the fish farmer, changes all the premises for those who want to farm species like cod, halibut, shrimp  and other marine species.” At the Government Conference on Future Aquaculture, Prime Minister Erna Solberg mentioned Planktonic as an example of a company that can contribute to developing aquaculture of species which over time may become as big as salmon.

Incredibly simple
«When we have tests and demonstrations for fish farmers, we have to spend the first few hours explaining the simplicity of our product. They are so used to spending a lot of time and labour on live feeds that they do not believe that we can supply a product as simple as we do,” says Husby.

Back from the «dead»
After having harvested the plankton, it must go through a cryopreservation process in order to be able to revive it later. Before freezing, the plankton is mixed with a specially designed cryopreservation liquid, whereafter it is packed in flat bags which are stored in liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees Celsius, with practically unlimited durability. The bags weigh about 600 g each, and one bag contains about 30 million plankton. At the fish farm, the farmer only needs to thaw the bag in salt water. The plankton is then revived and becomes a natural feed with the correct nutritional value for the fish juveniles.

Healthy and strong fish
The company has undertaken research and tested the feed on a number of different marine species – and the results have been very encouraging all the way. Larvae and juveniles that are fed Planktonic feed show faster growth than the control groups. The fish farmers also register lower mortality, better pigmentation and in general a more robust and more healthy fish.

The difference in size, pigmentation and robustness in lumpfish that has been fed dry feed (left) and Cryoplankton (right) is great.

Ready for the world market – starting in Norway
Planktonic has developed this technology and these methods since the company was started in 2009, but did not perform any industrial scale tests until 2016. While getting ready to launch the product on world markets, they have supplied feed to Norwegian farmers of wrasse and lumpfish over the past year. The farmers were quick to order feed for their next batch as soon as they saw the results of the first batch.

Out into the world – also with production
The animal plankton that Planktonic harvests is found many places all over the world. Production of Planktonic’s live feed is consequently not limited to Norway. “There are enormous amounts of this species in many ocean areas across the globe. That means that we can establish factories several places in the world – depending on where the demand is,” says Husby.

Superior survival rate
During the Cleanerfish Conference 2017, organized by the Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Fund, CEO of Salmar’s lumpish farm at Langstein, Mr. Marco Schaer, presented their experiences using Planktonic’s cryoplankton. Schaer presented figures that showed that mortality had been reduced from 18% to 3% through the use of Planktonic’s feed.

Less bacteria
A positive bi-effect of cryopreservation is also that the occurrence of bacteria is much lower in cryopreserved plankton than in other live feeds. The cryopreservation process includes replacing the water in the plankton with the cryopreservation liquid. Without this liquid, the plankton cells would be torn apart during freezing. The cryopreservation liquid and the freezing to -196 degrees at the same time kills most bacteria and viruses that is found in other live feeds – and thus the fish farmer eliminates many sources of contamination and outbreaks of disease that the industry is struggling with today and which costs them a lot of money.

And now, the company is ready to go out into the world to pursue its great goal: To replace all use of other live feeds with KryoPlankton!

For more information, see the company’s web page or contact:

Rune Husby

Planktonic AS
Tel: +47 93 43 89 28

The Nor-Fishing foundation

Klostergata 90 7030 Trondheim, Norway
+ 47 73 56 86 40

Here you can see the website for Nor-Fishing


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