Recirculating Aquaculture Is Possible without Major Energy Tradeoff: Life Cycle Assessment of Warmwater Fish Farming in Sweden

Seafood is seen as promising for more sustainable diets. The increasing production in land-based closed Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RASs) has overcome many local environmental challenges with traditional open net-pen systems such as eutrophication. The energy needed to maintain suitable water quality, with associated emissions, has however been seen as challenging from a global perspective. This study uses Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to investigate the environmental performance and improvement potentials of a commercial RAS farm of tilapia and Clarias in Sweden. The environmental impact categories and indicators considered were freshwater eutrophication, climate change, energy demand, land use, and dependency on animal-source feed inputs per kg of fillet. We found that feed production contributed most to all environmental impacts (between 67 and 98%) except for energy demand for tilapia, contradicting previous findings that farm-level energy use is a driver of environmental pressures. The main improvement potentials include improved by-product utilization and use of a larger proportion of plant-based feed ingredients. Together with further smaller improvement potential identified, this suggests that RASs may play a more important role in a future, environmentally sustainable food system.