An estimated three billion people rely on marine fish as a food source. Such demand has spurred overfishing and fueled the growth of fish farms. The aquaculture industry is increasing the demand on wild fish stocks further, with 20% of all wild caught fish being used to make feed for farmed fish, and 75% of all fish oil produced going to fed farmed fish.
The limited availability of fish oil along with soaring demand for seafood has made sourcing omega-3 EPA and DHA fatty acids from salmon extremely difficult, with stocks declining by more than a half over the past decade.
In 2013 Evonik and Royal DSM sought to solve this problem by forming a 50:50 joint venture called Veramaris with the goal of producing omega-3 EPA & DHA through the fermentation of natural marine algae at an industrial scale. Four years later, Veramaris awarded our team a detailed design and construction management contract for a $200 million commercial scale omega-3 fatty acid facility in Blair, Nebraska.
The Green Ocean project required our team to deliver brownfield modifications of an existing fermentation area as well as a greenfield detailed design for the separation and purification of the omega-3 product.
Using state-of-the-art fermentation microbes and technology, the outcome is a sustainable and natural product ideal for the animal nutrition industry. By producing omega-3 algal oil it removes the need to source omega-3 from wild salmon stocks, which enable the conservation and natural biodiversity of our oceans and relieves the pressure on wild caught salmon populations.
The production capacity of omega-3 EPA & DHA at the Veramaris facility is equivalent to 1.2 million tons of wild fish. To put this figure into perspective: across the entire Mediterranean, from Spain in the far West to Israel in the far East, there is around 800,000 tons of fish is caught annually. Hypothetically speaking, Veramaris helps to counterbalance the annual fishing activities in the Mediterranean Sea.
A number of factors positioned our team for success including a strong safety culture, a proven track record working on large scale EPCM projects, along with process knowledge of fermentation and biotech processes. The Green Ocean project was successfully completed on time and to budget in April of 2019 and represents a sustainable pathway for the aquaculture industry.