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Jonas Jonasson: "Our breeding technology enterprise is anchored on these strengths"

Last week, Jónas Jónasson the CEO of StofnFiskur and Production Director for Benchmark Genetics gave the interview to the www.ilaks.no and shared his thoughts about what makes the Stofnfiskur successful and company’s role for sustainable aquaculture development. According to Dr.Jonasson, there are three things that ensure the company’s success in its breeding operation.

Around 30 kilometers from Reykjavik, you will find the small town – Vogar, where the Benchmark-owned Stofnfiskur has largest brood stock farm for Atlantic salmon, called Vogavík.

Stian Olsen, the journalist from the iLaks, visited Stofnfiskur’s land-based farm in Vogar, that located close to the ocean on the southwest corner of Iceland. Sea- and freshwater is pumped up from 200 meters deep drilled boreholes in a closed system, which ensures no contact with wild fish. It ensures good biosecurity. The person who welcomes iLaks is Stofnfiskur’ CEO Jonas Jonasson. He has headed the Icelandic breeding technology company since 2006. It doesn’t take long before the biologist with a PhD in genetics starts talking about one of the areas that he is most concerned with: Biosecurity.

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Stofnfiskur site in Vogar

“In Vogavík we have 11 employees. All tanks are specially designed for brood stock farming and are in-door and on land. The farm has a production capacity of about 110 million eyed ova each year.”- says Dr. Jonasson. “If you look over there,” he says, pointing in the direction of a pump, “That’s where we fetch up sea and fresh water from a depth of 200 metres, which has had no contact with wild fish. That ensures good biosecurity.”

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“In Vogavík we have 11 employees. All tanks are specially designed for brood stock farming and are in-door and on land. The farm has a production capacity of about 110 million eyed ova each year.”- says Dr. Jonasson. “If you look over there,” he says, pointing in the direction of a pump, “That’s where we fetch up sea and fresh water from a depth of 200 metres, which has had no contact with wild fish. That ensures good biosecurity.”

Dr. Jónas listed three things that he believes are the main company’s strengths. - First, it’s good biosecurity, he repeats and continues: “We use genetic material of Atlantic salmon from Norway. The Norwegian ova is the origin of what now is known as the Stofnfiskur stock. Also, he added: “we are able to deliver newly stripped disease free, fast growing and robust salmon eggs to our customers every week during the year. This makes us unique on the marked.”


– Are you crazy?


Breeding of the Norwegian stocks has been taking place since 1991. Individuals from several brood stocks that had been previously fetched from Norway to Iceland were selected as the breeding nucleus. According to Dr. Jónas, Norwegian customers, are particularly appreciative of the fact that eggs are produced here all year round.


“There is tremendous demand for these in Norway, due to so many RAS (recirculating aquaculture systems) plants being built now, and where incubation occurs perhaps four times a year. Therefore it’s important to have access to eggs at other times of the year.


A definite contrast to the situation as it was ten years ago: “I remember ringing a producer and asking if he wanted eggs in July. His reply was: “Are you crazy? I’m on holiday at that time.” No one thinks that way now,” said Jonasson.


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Jonas Jonasson listed three things that he believes are the main strengths of the company

110 -120 million eggs produced annually

The ova is placed for maturation in the incubation centre, where plastic cylinders hang suspended row upon row. Maturation takes 7-10 weeks, before it is then placed in a sorting machine (grader) for the purpose of finding the best quality eggs. There are four of these machines in the room. “The machines each have a video camera, which measures the size of the eye, and picks out eggs that are dead separately from the eggs that are alive,” explained Dr. Jonasson.

After the live eggs have been taken out, they are packed and sent to destinations elsewhere in the world. In total, 110-120 million eggs are dispatched annually from Stofnfiskur. That’s enough to produce no less than 300,000 tonnes of salmon.

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Atlantic Salmon eggs from Stofnfiskur' site in Vogar

Crossbreed

After a quick viewing of the brood fish, Jonasson took us to the so-called Crossbreed building, to round off our visit. This building houses eggs produced from Icelandic Stofnfiskur females impregnated with milt from Norwegian Salmobreed males. The brood fish plant contains 20 tanks with around 1,000 fish in each tank. According to Jonasson, access is considerably stricter at this building than for the incubation centre. For instance, employees may start their workday at the incubation centre and finish up at the Crossbreed building, but not the other way round.

“Let’s see if we can get in,” Jonasson says.

– Are there any top secrets in there?

“Goodness no, this is purely on account of biosecurity precautions,” replies Jonasson.

Well, we should have figured that would be the answer. Oh, and by the way; iLaks was allowed in.


News and photos by Stian Olsen for iLaks.

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The brood fish plant contains 20 tanks with around 1,000 fish in each tank

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