Sb Optimal

Cryopreservation: preserving the best genes and contributing to the industry progress

Systematic breeding improves the characteristics of offspring for each new generation. At Benchmark Genetics, cryopreservation contributes to a further sharpening of the selection and stronger genetic progress.
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Rosana Estevez, Manager of Cryolab at StofnFiskur.

What is Cryopreservation?

Cryopreservation is a technology that makes it possible to freeze and store living cells such as sperm and embryos for a longer period at a temperature of -196oC in biobanks. The cells are alive and well-functioning after thawing and can be used for fertilization.

Today, the technology is used in breeding, medical research, and disease treatment. In salmon breeding, the method is used for freezing and storing milt from the best breeding males. Benchmark Genetics, a leading breeding company in aquaculture and owner of Benchmark Genetics Norway AS and StofnFiskur HF, has established it’s own laboratories with associated biobanks in Norway, Iceland, and Chile. The laboratories, named Benchmark Genetics Cryolab, have been established in connection with the company’s production centers for broodstock, and are an important part of the strategy to be at the forefront of developments in genetics.

Tubes For Milt

Straws with fresh milt are added before freezing.

It started in Iceland

Benchmark Genetics has used cryopreservation for several years with good results. After gaining experiences with the in-house technology in Iceland, the concept was expanded in 2018 when the technology and the biobank concept was introduced in all our production regions, to achieve full control of the genetic material. Through Cryolabs, Benchmark Genetics gains optimal use of the best male fish from the breeding program, both within the strains and for the production of ‘CrossBreed’ which are crosses between the strains that Benchmark owns, as well as other special products such as All-Female.


Storage of milt in liquid nitrogen.

Higher genetic progress, increased flexibility and lower risk

“The biobank also contributes to us being able to produce milt at any time that best corresponds to our customers’ demands for specific combinations of traits, with a higher predictability than before”, says Rudi Ripman Seim, Fish Health Manager at Benchmark Genetics.

Cryopreservation makes it possible to use the same male for several orders, and gives the company both flexibility and optimization of production, in addition to a higher value product for the customer.

“The establishment of in-house biobanks ensures that we are in full control of our genetic material and reduces the risk in case a disease outbreaks should occur in connection with the broodstock production”, he explains.

"Each individual male fish used as breeding candidates represents tremendous values, and such a risk reduction is important both for us as a company but also to ensure that the industry is not left without the latest and best breeding material if something unforeseen should happen." Rudi Ripman Seim, Fish Health Manager at Benchmark Genetics

How cryopreservation takes place in practice

“ The method is based on the fact that we take milt from mature male fish who are our top performing individuals based on breeding values and results from screening. The milt is first diluted four times, added to a preservative and then placed in thin plastic tubes (straw) which are marked with an ID code,” says Kristian Sørmo, who is Production Manager at SalmoBreed Salten and oversees the Norwegian biobank.

The straws are then frozen in a machine down to -150 o C. When the milt is frozen, it is transferred to a biobank operated by liquid nitrogen with a temperature of -196o C. When the milt is to be used again, the straws are thawed, an activator is added and mixed with ova from female fish for fertilization.

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"When we use our own developed procedures, we experience that the fertilization percentage is as good as when using fresh milt." ​Kristian Sørmo, Production Manager at SalmoBreed Salten​

Collaborates with Labora AS in Bodø

In Norway, Benchmark Gentics Cryolab is located at and is operated by Labora AS in Bodø. Operation of such a lab requires expertise and routines, and it was natural to collaborate with Labora, which is the largest analysis laboratory in northern Norway.

“We are very pleased to have achieved this collaboration, which in addition to the operation of a cryolab and biobank also involves services for our facility in Salten. Labora delivers the services we have specified and our lab is taken care of in the best way”, Kristian Sørmo concludes.

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Rosana Estevez at the Cryolab, StofnFiskur.

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