Eating smarter does not always require huge changes in habits. Humankind has probably, for example, captured and eaten fish for most, if not all, of its history. Fish still represents a good nutritional alternative to red meat today. Between 1961 and 2016, the average annual increase in global fish consumption outpaced population growth, with an increasing intake of 3.2% annually. For more than 3 billion people, fish provides almost 20% of their average per capita intake of animal protein. Consumption of fish varies dramatically between regions, and where the average per capita consumption in Central Asia is only about 2 kg per year, it is around 50 kg per person in the Small Island Developing States or SIDS. For Ingrid Undeland, scientist at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, fish are underappreciated as a source of protein: My name is Ingrid Undeland, and I am a professor here at the Chalmers University of Technology in the area of food science, and I lead here a marine research group. We work a lot with foods from the ocean, all kinds of interesting and new raw materials from seaweed to byproducts. So, there is a lot of discussion today about the ongoing protein shift, where people, basically, would like to reduce their intake of red meat, so the red proteins, then, into more environmentally sustainable proteins, but also proteins that are more healthy, because meat has been connected to some diseases, for instance, colorectal cancer and so on. So, there are many incentives for reducing the red proteins. And I think in the debate, it's almost always a discussion about going from the red directly into the green proteins: we have soy, pea and a lot of different examples. But, what people don't always think about is that there are a lot of micronutrients that you don't get to the same extent, when you make this shift. So what we are thinking and discussing a lot here is: we think the blue proteins would actually come in as a very important player in the protein shift. They are not as much discussed as the green ones, but they have a much lower environmental footprint than the red ones, and there are many different grades of how sustainable they are, I mean, here for example we work with everything from seaweed to proteins recovered from byproducts from the fisheries, and these are even more, gives an even lower environmental footprint than the fillet; actually, we try to raise very much the importance of the blue proteins, and I think in developing countries where they don't have access to red meat to the same extent as up here in Europe for instance. The blue proteins are even more important, and there are so many good health properties also connected to them. There is not only the long-chain omega-3, there is a very high quality of protein, iodine, vitamin D. There are a lot of important nutrients in the fish; so, they should be more in the debate in the protein shift. Traditions of eating fish have always been related to access. However, sources of fish have changed considerably over the last 30 years. Since the 1990s, aquaculture has developed as a serious alternative to capture of wild fish, and today, around 50% of all fish foods are from aquaculture, where the majority of this aquaculture takes place on land. This poses new challenges and possibilities. Especially, the issue of water consumption is what Ingrid works on daily: I mean food industry in general consumes a lot of water, and seafood industry is actually a good example of a trade that uses a lot of water, and the water is used for anything like: cooling, transportation, cleaning, rinsing, in the case of marinated herring, for instance, you have pre-salting boxes etc. So the water has many different functions, and it is very important. So two examples of processes, where we have dug a little bit extra into numbers: that's the boiling and peeling of shrimps, which altogether can use up to 50 cubic meters per ton of final peeled shrimp; so that is a lot of water. And another area up here in Sweden that is quite common is the marination of herring. I think we have come up with that roughly 70 to 80 cubic meters per ton of final marinated herring; so it's also quite a lot of water. And today, this water is going to do some cleaning inside the factory. They try to take away as much as possible of the organic material, and then, they send it further to the municipal waste treatment plants. So today, this water, it really doesn't have any big value, but what happens to it depends on, which country you are in. There are some countries like Iceland, where they in fact can release this process water right into the ocean. But in countries like Sweden, this is not allowed. So you have to do some pre-cleaning of the water inside your own factory or facility. So normally, they use some non-food grade flocculants, containing for instance a lot of aluminium, and this makes the water create sort of a sludge from the organic material, and, in the best case, this can go, for instance, to biogas production, or in worst cases, it's just going to landfill; then, it has no value at all. It's even a cost for the companies, because of transport and so on. And the residual water that then comes from the company's own treatment facility, it goes for further cleaning than in the municipal waste treatment plants, and then it's back into the water cycle. The processing water in itself has nutritional value, and this is the core of Ingrid's work. So, one big part of our research has been to document, how much protein is actually released out with the process waters. We know it's a lot, but before the projects that we had, nobody really knew how much protein is lost from the food chain. And now, we have taken this herring processing chain as a particular case, because it's a big industry in the Scandinavian countries. And we have calculated that within the primary processor, meaning the company that fillets the fish and then makes it into a marinated product in barrels. They lose roughly 10% of all the ingoing proteins that come with herring, [it] is lost into the process waters. And then, if we take the second part of the chain, the company that actually takes the marinated herring and turns it into pickled herring in glass jars. We have seen that they can lose up to 20% of the incoming protein. So we are talking about pretty big amounts of losses here. And another interesting thing is that we have measured the protein content of a lot of these different brines and waters, and the most concentrated ones, they have so much protein, so it's almost half of the amount of protein that you have in the fish fillet. So up to 8-9% have been found in extreme cases. So it's a very very concentrated brine, which today then goes out and gives no value at all. The practice today is that the biomaterial is collected through synthetic flocculants such as aluminum. That is a very efficient process, but it does not yield material of food grade. This means that the protein in that biomaterial cannot be used for either feed or food. With the scale of aquacultural production today, this means that massive amounts of protein are lost in the food chain with the processing water. So, where we are going with our research is that, we would like that these proteins stay within the food chain, because today they're lost from the food chain. But the way it's done today as I mentioned with aluminium and so on, they can't go to a food or feed product. So our concept is that we take these water streams, and we treat them with some component, which is food grade. Now for instance, we work with components from seaweed, polysaccharides from seaweed like alginate, carrageenan. And what they can do is that they flocculate the proteins, so that we can capture them, and make a new kind of protein biomass, which then can be turned into a new type of protein ingredient for food. So the concept, we are working on, is to make this recapturing of the proteins from the process water and into a food ingredient in a cost-effective and efficient way that makes this process worthwhile doing for the different seafood companies. Currently, we are working with some components that are maybe a bit too expensive, so we think the process today would be a bit too expensive to implement. But in the coming year, we will work intensely on finding good polysaccharides, polymers that can do the job of recapturing the proteins, so we can turn them into a good protein ingredient. With the method used by Ingrid and her team, it has been possible to recover up to 98% of all the protein with the use of food grade flocculants. The technique is still too costly to use at a large scale, but these researchers continue their search for more affordable ways to capture this protein. So yeah the cases we have worked with is: water from this boiling and peeling of the shrimps, and the herring marination. And the complete technique is that we have done this flocculation to make bigger flocks or clumps of the protein. And then, we have worked closely with a process company from Denmark, actually, called BIO-AQUA, and they have a very nice dissolved air flotation technique; so with small micro bubbles, you can then make these protein flocks raise up to the surface like foam, and when it is at the surface, you can basically scrape it off as a new type of ingredient. And the good thing with flotation is that is pretty cheap compared to for instance ultra filtration or other kinds of recovery techniques. So we do believe in this concept, but the tricky thing so far is to find cheaper flocculants. The ones we work with have been basically too costly. For Ingrid, the work of finding new processing technologies is essential as fish have many of the right traits to be a part of the global transformation of our food systems. So talking about blue proteins, it's actually very important to pinpoint that the feed conversion ratio, when it comes to aquaculture, is really low today. It's all the way down to 1.1 for an efficient salt salmon farm. And comparing that to production of beef etc., which is so much higher. Fish really is an important player in the protein shift.