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Increasing production cost, stagnant product prices and increasing competition from imported fish products are significant challenges for rainbow trout (RBT) producers in France and Canada. Significant pressure from various stakeholders is also bringing issues of environmental sustainability at the forefront in both countries. The sustainability of RBT culture operations is, therefore, highly dependent on how well these enterprises can improve their productivity and conversion of expensive and changing feed inputs into a marketable product, and reduce their waste outputs and environmental footprint. The efficiency of conversion of feed resources into fish biomass (feed efficiency, FE, biomass gain/ feed served) has a significant impact on production cost and waste outputs of fish culture operations. Studies and model simulations in RBT have revealed a strong correlation between biomass gain and protein deposition, indicating the steering role of protein deposition in fish growth. Body protein deposition and overall protein utilization efficiency (protein gain/protein intake) in RBT vary (25 to 45%) depending upon live weight, genetic background or diet composition (e.g. plant vs marine-based ingredients). Despite a considerable number of studies on protein and amino acid nutrition of fish, our understanding of the determinants of protein deposition and efficiency of protein utilization is relatively limited. Both, i) the recent identification by INRA scientists of RBT genotypes showing consistent variation in feed and protein utilization efficiency, which moreover varies according to dietary protein sources and ii) the characterization of changes in FE and efficiency of protein utilization of RBT trout throughout their life cycle by researchers at the University of Guelph offer promising models for studying the mechanisms underlying the regulation of the efficiency of protein utilization in RBT and other fish species.

The project will make use of the complementary expertise and skills of the partnering research groups in France and Canada and involves three complementary tasks that will combine:
 1) animal feeding studies, using well-defined factors (diet, live weight and genotype) known to influence the protein utilization efficiency combined with mathematical analysis of the phenotypic responses,
 2) fine analysis of molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the efficiency of protein and amino acid utilization and
 3) dynamic compartmental modelling and development of a production management model.
This combined approach will generate new knowledge on the interacting mechanisms (cellular and molecular muscle growth dynamics, protein turnover, protein degradation, amino acid catabolism) regulating the efficiency of protein utilization in fish. We also expect this project to generate valuable information and useful tools for the development of nutritional, genetic selection and production management strategies aimed at improving FE, contributing thus to the economical and environmental sustainability of RBT and other fish culture operations in France and Canada.

This project was labelised the AQUIMER Pole of Competitiveness on the 14th June, 2011.


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