Innovators: Rick Barrows, Kenny Belov, and Bill Foss
Ages: 60, 39, and 51
Fish nutritionist at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Bozeman, Mont.; co-owners of wholesale seafood startup TwoXSea in San Francisco
Form and function
Farmed fish have long been raised on feed containing ground wild fish, contributing to tighter supplies and higher prices. TwoXSea claims to be the first company to cultivate trout on a vegetarian diet.
Aquaculture provides almost half of all fish for human food, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Barrows began working on reducing fish meal in feed in 1988 when he worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Belov and Foss asked him to create a fish-free formula in 2009.
TwoXSea’s feed mills use extruders, which resemble large pasta-making machines, to combine algae, flax, pistachio byproducts, and other ingredients.
Barrow’s first formula was designed for trout. He’s designed 11 more, including meals for salmon and yellowtail. Species’ protein and energy requirements vary considerably, he says, but vitamin, mineral, and amino acid needs are pretty consistent.
Belov and Foss have invested about $1 million total in the project.
Belov says TwoXSea’s feed costs about $1.50 a pound to make, compared with 75¢ for the regular stuff, mainly because of the high price of fish oil substitute DHA.
Foss and Belov say their trout ($7.95 a pound wholesale) has sold out since they started distributing it in 2010, as has the recently introduced tilapia. Their 19-employee company delivers about 200,000 pounds of fish a year and is trying to increase production. “This is the way the industry is going to go,” says Kevin Fitzsimmons, a University of Arizona environmental science professor who’s judging a fish-free feed contest with the Monterey Bay and New England aquariums that began on Nov. 9. “The aquaculture industry is growing so quickly around the world that we’ve got to find alternatives.”