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Research and Development

Documentation is our most important tool to prove that our products are performing as we promise, that we are going to improve our products every year and to validate the research we do. We document under controlled conditions by setting up trials. In addition, we collect documentation from our customers to acquire knowledge about how our products perform in the field.


As part of our breeding work we test our fishes. We want to find out which families and individuals have the fastest growth rate, best disease resistance and what fishes are closest to the defined quality parameters that are desirable at the slaughter. The parameters we examine are: fat deposits, fillet productivity and muscle colour (pigmentation).

In order to deliver fish with the highest resistance against disease, we do annual infection tests where individuals from all the families in Salmobreed’s breeding core are involved. The fish are kept in tanks on land where they are exposed to disease infection. At the conclusion of the trials we register the survival rate through the disease course and how infected fish that survive grow. Then we can calculate which fish have the greatest resistance to the particular disease. Today, the priority diseases are PD, IPN, CMS and ISA, in addition to fish resistance against salmon lice and AGD.


Using genetic methods variants of genotypes of each fish can be linked with fish characteristics. By making many experiments and collecting DNA samples, we build a library of the genotypes which exist in the population. The library is filled with new tests, and the data base gets bigger and bigger. This way we can get increasingly better calculations for the relationship between genes and lice resistance. This way we can define the genotypes that are adequate, for example against diseases and parasites.


Using molecular genomic methods we can connect the phenotype (a measure of property; how many lice fish get, how it performs under illness) and genotypes (fish gene expression) to the fish we used in the infection test against the fish we are considering to use in breeding. For this purpose we use big relationship matrices prepared from DNA and pedigrees. We compare the DNA and estimate what kind of lice infestation or disease resistance we can expect to get for the breeding candidate if it is exposed to the same infection test as their relatives. The method is called genomic selection and the method allows us to select the best individuals in each family.


We work with our clients documenting how our genetics performs in the field. Since 2004, SalmoBreed collected central production and performance data through the annual “Roe survey”. This is a survey that covers the period that begins when roe is released to four weeks after feeding starts. The customers themselves respond to questions about the performance, operation, fish health and water quality. The answers from the customers give us a valuable insight of how the genetics performs and under what conditions fish are kept from year to year. The results that emerge are shared with the people involved, so that the knowledge also benefits our customers.

We also collect data through the “hatchery fish survey” which covers the period beginning four weeks after feeding starts, until the vaccination. We have a close cooperation both with our producers in different regions of Norway, and with our sister companies in Benchmark Holdings both in Norway and abroad. In addition, we participate in a number of R & D projects, that provide valuable insight in several aspects, which ultimately benefits our customers.

The breeding work is a continuous upgrade of the salmon stocks. Each year we select key production properties such as increased growth and improved resistance to disease and lice. When new products are released, it is important to document that the products actually perform as expected. This provides security for our customers, but also for SalmoBreed as breeding company. We want to see that our theories work in practice in commercial scale. Therefore it is very important that our customers help in our documentation work. We therefore greatly appreciate the cooperation we have developed through the “Roe survey” and the “Hatchery Fish Survey”.

We make production tests for each generation of fish by following groups from release to slaughter. This gives us information about how the fish performs in the sea phase. It is especially growth and flesh quality we measure in this full scale survey.

Gene Editing

The Crispr technology gives the geneticists a new set of very powerful tools

Selective breeding relies on genetic variation caused by natural mutations. Gene Editing (GE) using enzyme complexes such as CRISPR-Cas9 and TALENS that edit the DNA sequence can be used to make precise targeted changes in the genomes of plants and animals. Such mutations would occur naturally in populations of plants and animals, but at a very low level. This GE technology gives geneticists a new set of very powerful tools to improve efficiency, health and welfare.

Benchmark considers GE to be a separate technology to transgenesis (moving genes between species) which was used in defining Genetic Modification (GM). Regulators consider GE to be genetic modification because the resulting alterations occur by non-natural methods. Benchmark anticipates that authorities will develop a constructive, regulatory system that permits development and production of GE animals with improved health and welfare.

Benchmark Genetics does not use transgenesis or GM in its products.

Benchmark’s overall focus is on sustainable breeding and to operate as an ethical and responsible company. The company sees GE as a tool for breeding livestock with improved health, animal welfare and performance, and will research applications that do not constitute a risk to the genetic integrity of the individual, population or environment. Research in functional genomics, where Benchmark already is positioned in the forefront in the aquaculture industry, will identify genes that affect health and welfare as targets for GE.

Acting responsibly, as the guardians of our animals, we will develop strains capable of high performance in modern production systems. We will implement GE technology where it proves to be socially and legally acceptable and when it can be shown to improve the efficiency, health and welfare of our animals.

Please read more in our Gene Editing Position Statement.

Benchmark Genetics is an industry partner in a project led by the Norwegian Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Food Research Institute – Nofima. This new project aims to apply the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to assess why Pacific salmon species are less susceptible to sea lice than Atlantic salmon. You can read more about this project…

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