SBIR Phase II: Nutrient-Enhanced Soybean for Aquafeed

Period of Performance: 04/01/2017 - 03/31/2019


Phase 2 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) Phase II project will be the production of enhanced-nutrition soybeans that have high levels of protein for use in aquafeed. Meat and fish consumption is rapidly growing due to increased world population and affluence. Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector. Small wild-caught fish are used for aquaculture feed. Wild-caught fish harvests have not changed in 25 years and overfishing small fish jeopardizes the marine ecosystem. Aquafeed producers are turning to soy-based protein to replace fishmeal but soy-based proteins lack taurine and are deficient in methionine, two important nutrients 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. Successful development of enhanced-nutrition soybean seeds would reduce the amount of supplemental nutrients required in aquafeed, a $2.2B global annual cost predicted for 2020, and could save aquafeed producers 20% of their additive feed costs. Enhanced-nutrition soybean seeds would be an economical, healthy, sustainable, environmentally friendly and secure source of taurine and methionine for the rapidly growing aquaculture industry. This SBIR Phase II project will use a biotechnology approach to increase the essential nutrients in soybean seeds for use in aquafeed. Many aquafeed producers use plant-based protein, primarily from soybean, as a replacement for fishmeal. However, plants lack some nutrients required for normal fish growth and development. Taurine and methionine, two nutrients either lacking or limited in soybean, are supplemented to soy-based aquafeed, thus increasing feed-production costs. The goal of this project is to increase the levels of taurine and methionine produced in the seeds of a commercial-grade, high-protein soybean variety that has high feed digestibility. Molecular and biochemical methods will be used to identify soybean seeds with: (1) taurine and high methionine levels; (2) uncompromised quality and viability; (3) unaffected levels of other nutrients; (4) normal to higher-than-normal protein content; and (5) low levels of nondigestible compounds. The anticipated results are the production of soybean seeds with a minimum of 0.2% taurine (dry seed weight) and at least 50% more total methionine compared with control seeds.