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Three researchers and a fish.
From left: Sigurd Handeland, Tom Ole Nilsen and Sigurd Stefansson. Photo: jaykphotography.com

Research-based tool ensures more robust and healthy fish

Releasing smolt at the right time is one of the aquaculture industry's major challenges. Researchers at Uni Research and the University of Bergen have developed a unique tool that makes life easier for fish farmers.

Controlled production and correct timing of transfer is very important for smolt to successfully make the transition from freshwater tanks to netpens in the sea. High quality smolt and proper timing of transfer will give high survival and growth rates in the sea. Bad timing of transfer may result in economic losses and is not environmentally friendly.

To determine the proper timing of transfer, the farmer is dependent on accurate management tools. Researchers at Uni Research and the University of Bergen have developed a new analytical tool that provides the farmer with more information and predictability of the smolt’s status in this crucial phase.

– In the process of smoltification the fish changes its genetic marker profile. Sets of genetic changes can be exploited to identify the smolt’s developmental stage, says Tom Ole Nilsen, Senior Scientist at Uni Research.

SmoltVision, which is the name of the new analysis tool, uses information from multiple genetic markers to indicate to the farmer how well smolts will tolerate seawater. SmoltVision will therefore give the farmer an early warning that the fish are moving into the smolt window, as well as provide an early warning of desmoltification. ATPase-analysis, which is the most common used analysis method, does not provide the farmer this opportunity. ATPase-analysis only provides a concrete answer on how the fish handles seawater at the exact time of the test.

Adapted to local conditions
SmoltVision’s database also provides the farmer with the opportunity to develop models adapted to local conditions. This is very valuable since no two fish farms are the same:

– Our experience, having worked with smolt analysis for 15 years, is that the combination of water source, genetics, equipment, operations personnel, and procedures makes each hatchery in Norway unique. We believe that SmoltVision will provide the farmer with useful data to build models based on his farms’ unique parameters, says Sigurd Handeland, Senior Scientist at Uni Research.

Sigurd Stefansson (University of Bergen), Sigurd Handeland and Tom Ole Nilsen have developed SmoltVision together with PHARMAQ Analytiq. PHARMAQ Analytiq uses targeted research and effective analysis to safeguard fish health and welfare in aquaculture.

Bergen Teknologioverføring AS has help PHARMAQ Analytics with negotiations and marketing activities.

The project is partly financed by funds from the FORNY2020-program.