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Agriculture can help aquaculture become greener


Aquaculture, the farming of fish and seafood, is recognized as a highly efficient system for producing protein for human consumption. In contrast, many terrestrial animal protein production systems are inefficient, impacting land use and exacerbating climate change. Humankind needs to adopt a more plant-centric diet, the only exception being fish consumed as both a source of protein and essential dietary nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids. Here we consider the implications of such a transition, and the challenges that aquaculture must overcome to increase productivity within planetary boundaries. We consider how agriculture, specifically crops, can provide solutions for aquaculture, especially the sectors that are dependent on marine ingredients. For example, agriculture can provide experience with managing monocultures and new technologies such as genetically modified crops tailored specifically for use in aquaculture. We propose that a closer connection between agriculture and aquaculture will create a resilient food system capable of meeting increasing dietary and nutritional demands without exhausting planetary resources.

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Fig. 1: Salmon farming in Shetland.


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Rothamsted Research receives grant-aided support from the BBSRC. J.A.N. and R.P.H. were partially supported by BBSRC ISPG Tailoring Plant Metabolism (BBS/E/C/000I0420). J.A.N., D.R.T. and M.B.B. were partly supported by BBSRC IPA, Evaluating novel plant oilseeds enriched in omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids to support sustainable development of aquaculture (BB/J001252/1), and BBSRC IPA Novel omega-3 sources in feeds and impacts on salmon health (BB/S005919/1). R.-E.O., J.A.N., D.R.T. and M.B.B. were also partly supported by Research Council of Norway HAVBRUK Program grant no. 245325, Transgenic oilseed crops as novel, safe, sustainable and cost-effective sources of EPA and DHA for salmon feed.

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Correspondence to Johnathan A. Napier.

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J.A.N. is listed as an inventor on patents (granted and pending) relating to the production of omega-3 LC-PUFAs in transgenic plants (patent GB1206483.8 and subsequent family members).

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Peer review information Nature Food thanks Sachi Kaushik, Surinder Singh and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Napier, J.A., Haslam, R.P., Olsen, RE. et al. Agriculture can help aquaculture become greener. Nat Food 1, 680–683 (2020).

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