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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

The Blue Economy Challenge

Join us as we reengineer aqualculture for sustainability to achieve a blue revolution for our oceans

U.S. Agency for International Development

Type of Challenge: Ideas
Partner Agencies | Non-federal: Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Aid, WWF, Conservation X Labs, Innovation Xchange, SecondMuse
Submission Start: 02/29/2016 12:00 AM ET
Submission End: 06/30/2016 11:59 PM ET

This challenge is externally hosted.

You can view the challenge details here:



Aquaculture, the farming of fish and other seafood, has great potential to contribute to food security, nutrition, and economic growth for the developing world. It is currently the fastest growing animal food producing sector, and an increasing source of protein for human consumption. Most aquaculture occurs within the developing world. Despite its increasing importance, current aquaculture methods are neither sustainable nor scalable. The Blue Economy Challenge seeks to find ways to rethink aquaculture inputs, design, and products in way that meets human sustainability and development through long-term ecological sustainability.


Global demand for protein is anticipated to skyrocket in the coming decades. Aquaculture has the potential to produce a significant proportion of the world’s nutrition. While fisheries globally are nearing the point of collapse, the worldwide demand for protein is expected to continue to grow rapidly, especially as large populations in developing countries gain wealth and adopt middle-class diets higher in protein. Aquaculture is projected to at least double in outputs by 2050. This projection may be conservative, as aquaculture increasingly is a solution for offsetting land-based sources of protein. Aquaculture food supply per capita and total production value have grown at an annual rate of almost 9% for decades, and although this rate is around 6-6.5% today, farmed seafood has overtaken production from capture fisheries. Fish farming enables seafood consumption (and access to protein) to continue to increase even as marine fisheries production has flat-lined.

While the current aquaculture industry is a vital producer for the global fish market, supplying 58 percent of the fish we eat, much aquaculture (particularly predatory fish and prawn) remains unsustainable, degrading both land and marine habitat, risking the introduction or spread of invasive species and pathogens, and polluting surrounding ecosystems. Many aquaculture farms are also economically unsustainable. Ninety percent of aquaculture occurs in the developing world where lack of access to current technologies and capital, coupled with weak regulation, are barriers to change. Moreover, aquaculture is often a direct response to depleted fisheries, yet the aquaculture industry relies heavily on wild-caught fish to feed captive fish, which could lead to overfishing and undermine human and environmental sustainability in the long-term.

The opportunity for reengineering aquaculture in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is great. People in a number of developing countries of the IOR rely on fish for over half of the animal protein in their diets (i.e. Bangladesh, Comoros, Indonesia, Maldives, and Sri Lanka) [FAO], and this will likely increase with growing populations. In 2012, aquaculture production in Southern and Eastern Asia (excluding China) accounted for 26% of world total production [FAO] and in Indonesia, fishing and fish farming employs nearly 6 million people [FAO]. With improvements and growth in the aquaculture industry, this sector could potentially improve the food security and livelihoods of many people in the developing economies of the IOR. Aquaculture can be the protein source of the future, yet as the industry currently stands, it is in need of innovations to improve efficiency, sustainability, and long-term viability. Accordingly, we are inviting you to solve three of its major challenges.

The Problem While helping to relieve pressure on at-risk and collapsed fisheries, aquaculture has its own unique sustainability challenges. The most direct concern is the feed used in aquaculture. It accounts for 40-70% of producton costs and puts heavy demands on wild fsheries, which are the primary source of current feeds. With the dramatic growth in the aquaculture industry, prices for fishmeal and fish oil— prime constituents of many aquaculture feeds—are increasing. Fishmeal and fish oil largely come from harvested pelagic fish like anchovies or menhaden, which are currently sustainable fisheries, but these resources might be used for other beneficial purposes. Remarkably, for a yield of one kilo of farmed fish, particularly carnivorous fish, it can require inputs of up to 20 kg of wild fish. Further, some of the species harvested for fishmeal and oil are targeted indiscriminately and even referred to as “trash fish” when in actuality the catch from these trawls can include numerous fish of high value and ecological significance that are necessary for food security and sustainability. By incentivizing the creation of replacements for wild fish in feed, aquaculture could become significantly more sustainable, nutritious, and profitable. Moreover, by reducing the price of sustainable feed it could allow smaller farmers to enter the market. Potential replacement solutions include generating feed from soy, seaweed, ethanol/biofuel waste products, algae, yeast, bacteria, and insects.
The Challenge Create highly nutritional aquaculture feed replacements that matches or improves on the cost and nutritional performance of existing feedstock while reducing the burden on the natural environment. New feed replacements should eliminate or dramatically minimize their impact on wild fish stocks and and other environmental systems not use agricultural products used for human consumption. Feed replacements should have equal or greater nutritional value per dollar compared to commercially available fishmeal.
Criteria Environmental Sustainability: Feed replacements should eliminate or dramatically minimise their impact on wild fish stocks. Feed replacements should not have any measurable increase in the use of antibiotics. The solutions will include clear mitigation plans for feed replacement that involves any potential trade offs in deforestation or excess demand on existing food and agriculture systems (i.e. corn, grain, etc.). Feed replacements must not deplete wild fishery stocks or offset other nutritional products (e.g. agricultural products currently used for direct human consumption). Replacement feed stocks for aquaculture that also can serve as substitutes for other types of feed will be favored. Cost & Performance Criteria: These criteria include improved performance on a species’ traditional feed conversion ratio, the expected profitability or the marginal costs and revenue for the feed replacement at scale, and the feasibility for scalability of the feed replacement to multiple identified geographies (i.e. market growth). The price point for the feed replacement should be US $1,500 ton/meal and US$750/ton to manufacture or lower. The feed replacement should have equal or greater nutritional value per dollar compared to benchmarked feed for protein (protein performance should be better than or as good as commercially available fishmeal), micronutrients, and Omega 3. As applicable, the feed replacement should demonstrate energy, material, and resource efficiency advantages. Examples 1. Replacement fish feed from micro or macro algae or other nontraditional feed sources that minimise the number of trophic levels. 2. Feed replacements that can be generated in a closed-loop system that minimize direct or indirect environmental damage


Selection Criteria

A global panel of experts from conservation, development, industry, and finance will assess the challenge entries against the following criteria:
  1. Transformative: whether the idea is revolutionary, novel, or questions fundamental assumptions in its approach.
  2. Impactful: whether the proposed idea will make a significant contribution in advancing conservation efforts or in improving the lives of people through dramatic improvements in efficacy, speed, efficiency, or cost.
  3. Sustainable: whether the proposed idea is sustainable in both its design and tenure;
  4. Feasible: whether the proposed solution is realistic with an acceptable degree of risk, and noting where it sits on the development spectrum, from idea to deployment.
  5. Profitable: whether the proposed solution will be profitable or financially beneficial to those who seek to implement it, or will lead to intellectual property with the potential to be acquired and scaled through the developing world.
  6. Leadership Potential: individuals are vital to the success or failure of any endeavor. We will assess the leadership potential of the innovators and our ability to assist them in developing their skills.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Applications must be in English.
  • Only complete applications will be reviewed.

How To Enter