SBIR Phase I: Taurine- and Methionine-Rich Soybean for Aquafeed

Period of Performance: 01/01/2016 - 06/30/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Plant Sensory Systems, Llc.
6204 Blackburn Lane Array
Baltimore, MD 21212
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project will be the production of enhanced-nutrition (EN) soybeans that contain taurine and increased methionine. As the world population increases and becomes more affluent, meat and fish consumption is rapidly growing. The fastest growing food sector is aquaculture. Small wild-caught fish are used to make feed for aquaculture, but wild-caught fish harvests have not changed in 25 years. This practice is not sustainable. Overfishing the small fish population jeopardizes the marine ecosystem. Aquafeed producers are turning to soy-based protein to replace fishmeal but plant proteins lack taurine and are deficient in methionine, two important amino acids for fish. To meet fish nutritional requirements, producers supplement soy-based aquafeed with synthetic taurine and methionine. In addition to added costs, synthetic taurine and methionine are produced from hazardous substances, and synthetic taurine has been shown to contain arsenic. EN soybeans would reduce the amount of supplemental amino acids required in aquafeed, a $2.2B global annual cost predicted for 2020, and could save aquafeed producers 20% of additive feed costs. The EN soybean would be an economical, healthy, sustainable, environmentally friendly and secure source of taurine and methionine for the rapidly growing aquaculture industry. This SBIR Phase I project proposes to demonstrate that the enhanced-nutrition (EN) technology can produce commercially viable levels of taurine and methionine in soybean seeds without adversely affecting seed quality. Soy-based protein is replacing meat and fish-based protein. However, plants lack some amino acids required in aquafeed and must be supplemented, which increases feed-production costs. Taurine and methionine, two amino acids either lacking or limited in soybean, are added to soy-based aquafeed. The goal of this SBIR project is to produce soybeans that contain taurine and increased methionine that can be used in aquafeed with reduced supplemental amino acids. Molecular, biochemical, and physiological methods will be used to meet the following objectives in this Phase I research. The goals are to determine whether EN soybean seeds contain taurine and have higher methionine levels compared with seeds of control lines; determine whether the EN technology affects the other amino acid levels, seed quality (total protein, oil, moisture content, and seed viability), or seed-storage protein levels; and identify five lines with high levels of taurine and methionine. Anticipated technical results are EN soybean seeds with taurine levels at least 0.2% dry seed weight and total methionine levels at least twice that of seeds in control lines.