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Growing Their Potential: Agri Farmers and Aqua Industry Collaborate to Create New Feed Option

October 08, 2019

As the world’s appetite for seafood continues to grow, concerns about the availability of forage fish to feed this increased supply are on the rise too. Given nature’s finite stock of small, feeder fish, food producers are seeking alternatives to reduce their dependence on traditional fishmeal options. 

AluProt-CGNA® is one such option. Created by Chile’s Center for Nutritional and Agronomic Genomics (CGNA) in 2013, it’s a high-protein lupine variety. AluProt has 50 percent greater protein yield potential than traditional alternatives with 60 percent protein in the dehulled grain. According to CGNA, this super protein is energy-efficient too, requiring less water, soil preparation and agrochemical support than other plants. 

Environmental efficiency is just part of the story. AluProt also provides economic and social support to a collective of Chile’s Mapuche farmers, representing about 150 indigenous farming families in La Araucanía Region and rural communities. Their crop is harvested to create a high-quality, high-protein concentrate for which demand outstrips supply. Cargill buys 100 percent of the collective’s output for its salmon feed – good for the farmers and good for Cargill. AluProt is believed to have better oil content than soymeal as well as a superior amino-acids profile compared to other plant-based proteins. Production is expected to ramp up to 10,000 metric tons by 2025. 

With farming “in his blood,” Pablo Huilipan, a farmer and president of the Peniwén Cooperative, sows the lupine, as well as wheat and oats, alongside the other farmers in the cooperative. He was raised by his grandparents on the land he continues to farm today and while he has always understood the need to innovate, Pablo didn’t always have the resources to make innovation happen. “Before, I was always farming the same crops the same way. Some years, there was over production, prices were down, and times were difficult. Now, through the cooperative, I have learned new ways of thinking, new skills, and I know I can do much more,” he asserted. 

The story of Aluprot, also known as “Lupino Aluprot,” began in 2016 when Cargill funded a unique alliance supported by CGNA, TechnoServe and five local Mapuche farmer/family cooperatives. Over the years, these organizations have worked together to optimize crops – including Aluprot, obtain better yields, and exchange experiences and lessons learned. Farmers also attend workshops addressing entrepreneurship, collaboration and other business skills. “I totally love participating!” Pablo shared. “There are many farmers involved in the alliance. Before, none of us understood the opportunities or the weaknesses we had. Through this program, we have learned how we can work together and how to win.” 

Pablo and the other farmers are indeed “winning” with AluProt. Their community has been bolstered, they have new farming best practices, enhanced production and a supportive, stable buyer. Even the quality of the soil has improved. An “excellent” rotation crop, AluProt releases fixed nitrogen through its roots at the end of its growing cycle, fertilizing the soil and leading to better results with the next crop, most often trigo, or wheat, for Mapuche farmers. 

Short-term, the alliance is most optimistic about CGNA’s efforts in developing a next-generation, fungus-resistant version of the super protein to maximize annual production. “This could truly change our lives,” said Pablo. “Already, there is no better Lupine so improving it could support our families for years to come.” Long-term, the alliance’s goal is for the farmers to continue their success with renewed independence. In the meantime, they continue to share the concepts and skills needed for Mapuche farmers to survive—and thrive—in the years ahead. According to Pablo, they are well on their way. “Our Cooperative had never received technical assistance like this before, but after meeting with Cargill we both think it may be a possibility. That has turned out to be an excellent idea.”