The History and Significant Role of the UG/OMNR Fish Nutrition Research Lab
In 1969, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), the then Department of Lands and Forests, approached poultry nutritionist Prof. Stanley J. Slinger of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph (UG) and they offered funds for fish nutrition research to formulate Canadian dry fish diets which could replace imported feeds from the U.S. and beef liver used to the fish in their fish culture stations. As the first phase of the project, the Fish Nutrition Research Laboratory (FNRL) constructed a wet laboratory with a recirculation system early in 1970. This was to be the first fish nutrition research project in Canada. Initial objectives of the experiments were to formulate salmonid diets using ingredients available in Canada. A further aim was to replace high levels of herring meal in part with animal by-product proteins, such as meat and blood meal and with plant proteins, such as soybean and corn gluten meal.
The University of Guelph also started offering undergraduate and graduate programs with some emphasis on fish nutrition. Continuous research grant support from OMNR, a larger grant from the Canada Department of Fisheries and oceans through OMNR (Federal-Provincial Fisheries Industrial Development Program) and a NRC grant made possible a major expansion of the Fish Nutrition Research Laboratory facility and its scope for research in 1973. This made it possible to involve more basic nutrition research in the field of bioenergetics/digestibility and requirements of protein/amino acids, lipid/fatty acids and vitamins using newly developed purified diets, also including water temperature effects on nutritional regimes. In the mid 1970's the Department of Nutritional Sciences obtained approval from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) to convert a poultry nutrition program tino fish nutrition program, Iwith the aim of providing more productive feeds to trout farmers and promoting the aquaculture industry in Ontario.
In 1973, Cho and Slinger developed the “Open Feed Formula” concept. These fish feed formulations were publicly tendered to supply all Ontario Government fish culture stations and later private fish farmers. Several formulae were developed over the years and this information was widely distributed, without limitations, to any feed manufacturers. Free and open information was also provided on ingredient quality criteria, feed manufacturing equipment and process, feed handling and storage, and feeding practices. The open feed formula concept played a highly influential for the development of commercial feeds around the world. Young Cho provided open and free support to Canadian, Scandinavia and Asia for many years. In the early 1970's, Astra-Ewos (Mississauga, Ontario), presently EWOS, started marketing Swedish-made dry fish feeds in Canada. Prof. Young Cho acted as an advisor to Astra-Ewos for several years and provided seminal information on feed formulation and ingredient quality. In the late 1970's, feed formulators from Denmark started adopting the experimental high fat feed formulas used in bioenergetics studies at the UG/OMNR Fish Nutrition Research Laboratory. These high fat diets were considered the original low pollution diets as they allowed reduction of nitrogenous waste outputs from land-based operations.
In addition to these activities, the Department of Nutritional Sciences, UG, and Fisheries Branch, OMNR, in 1978 hosted the Fish Feed and Nutrition Workshop (7th in series) for the first time in Canada. They also established the Canadian Working Group for Fish Nutrition which held its first meeting in Guelph in 1981. UG/OMNR FNRL scientists participated to the Subcommittee for Fish Nutrition of U.S. National Research Council for three editions (1981, 1993, and the upcoming 2011 edition) of the NAS-NRC Nutrient Requirements of Fish and Shrimps bulletin. UG/OMNR Fish Nutrition Research Laboratory has played a very active role internationally to lead the International Union of Nutritional Sciences Committee for Production of Fish and Shellfish and co-organize the International Symposia on Nutrition and Feeding of Fish in Europe, Asia, South America and Australia.
Dr. Young Cho and his colleagues UG/OMNR Fish Nutrition Research Laboratory have made significant contributions over the past four decades in the field of fish nutrition that have led to major reductions in the organic matter, phosphorus, and nitrogen discharges from trout farms. They pioneered what is now referred to as the "Guelph system of fecal collection" that has led to reliable digestibility estimates for feedstuffs commonly used in trout feeds. In addition, the work of Dr. Cho and his colleagues on bioenergetics have estimated reliable information on the digestible protein and energy needs of fish and have developed predictive models for assessing aquaculture waste production from fish farms based on feed quality, nutrient intakes, and growth of the fish population reared.
For the past 40 years, fish nutritionists from the UG/OMNR Fish Nutrition Research Laboratory have had a motto which is still very actual:
“Successfully practiced aquaculture which produces a kilogram of farmed salmonid fish from 3-4 kg of high quality forage fish (herring, capelin or anchovies), while excreting a half kilogram of waste into our water, must a thing of the past.” Fish meal and fish oil replacement are not a “fad” for the UG/OMNR Fish Nutrition Research Laboratory, it has been the central focus of its research program for the past 40 years.