By Richard Yaw Otwey, Amy Atter, Christopher Galley, Ethel Blessie, Stephen Nketia, Gloria Asare, Ebenezer Asiamah, Hayford Ofori, Queronica Quartey and Seth Agyakwah
The HealthyFoodAfrica project’s Food System Lab Accra focuses on the use of tilapia waste to improve the sustainability of food value chains.
In the world we live in, every activity has an impact on another element of the ecosystem, especially when it comes to environmental sustainability. Food waste is a significant global environmental sustainability challenge: it is therefore crucial to find new, sustainable solutions to this problem. One such answer can be found in a production process that is sometimes undervalued or even disregarded: efficient waste management along the food chain, specifically in the tilapia value chain.
A common freshwater fish native to the Middle East and Africa, tilapia not only provides an important source of income for fishers (especially those involved in fish processing) and good nutrition, but also the opportunity to use its waste in a variety of ways. Processing tilapia fillets, for example, can result in up to 70% waste or by-products. The head, bones, guts, flaps, fins, backbone and scales are all components that are typically considered waste and thrown away without a second thought. This is not the best use of these by-products.
Transforming tilapia waste to empower women and sustain businesses
It is essential to explore some of the untapped potential of tilapia waste, particularly the non-edible parts, and how they can be used to promote sustainability in a range of businesses. Tilapia waste has undiscovered treasures waiting to be explored. If developed, they can help diversify the income of fish processors, who are mostly women.
Fish scales and bones are preferred to fish skin because they produce more gelatin during the gelatin extraction process. Thanks to their higher content of amino acids (proline), a useful protein that can be wasted. Gelatin, a versatile material used in many meals and even medicines, can be obtained by using proper extraction methods.
One of the by-products of tilapia that has a bright future on the market is fish oil. With the application of appropriate technology, efficient oil extraction would be possible at a lower cost.
Who would have guessed that tilapia waste could be converted into clean energy? We can convert organic waste into biofuels such as biodiesel and biogas using a variety of technologies. The main reasons for using fish waste to produce biodiesel are that it is harmless and biodegradable. Compared to regular petrol or diesel, biodiesel emits significantly less CO2, hydrocarbons and other particles into the air. The conversion process involves extracting fish oil from the waste. This means we can move away from dependence on fossil fuels and towards a greener, more sustainable future.
Production of fishmeal/animal feed
Fishmeal is a high protein source used in animal feed and aquaculture. By turning our fish waste into fishmeal, we reduce the need to harvest wild fish, protecting our oceans and supporting a sustainable food supply.
Production of nutrient-rich fertilizers
Tilapia is generally nutrient dense, so its waste contains a lot of organic matter that will be beneficial to the growth of our crops.
Turning tilapia waste into sustainable solutions for prosperity
Utilizing tilapia waste is part of a larger effort to establish a sustainable circular economy in the food sector, where nothing is wasted, not simply in terms of waste reduction. This will assist in reducing our carbon footprint, protecting the environment, and conserving resources already in use. So, remember, there’s more to that delicious, spicy, meaty tilapia than first appears. Think about the potential uses of the waste, such as fertilizer, fishmeal, biofuel or collagen extraction.
Adding value to this waste can create additional employment opportunities, increase the income of fish processors and lead to improved family welfare. Let’s work together to unlock the untapped potential of tilapia waste and improve the world’s ecosystem. Since we have limited resources, why waste them when we can use them more effectively?