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Benchmark Hlgs PLC (BMK)


Wednesday 30 September, 2015

Benchmark Hlgs PLC

SalmoBreed breakthrough

RNS Number : 6325A
Benchmark Holdings PLC
30 September 2015

30 September 2015

Benchmark Holdings plc

("Benchmark" or the "Company")


SalmoBreed achieves major breakthrough in salmon breeding selection for sea lice and Pancreas Disease resistance


Benchmark Holdings is pleased to announce that its subsidiary SalmoBreed AS ("SalmoBreed") has achieved a major breakthrough in genetic breeding programs for Pancreas Disease (PD) and sea lice resistance through a new genetic method in aquaculture called Genomic Selection. This method is already recognized in genetic science for other species, and can provide a more accurate and safer selection than by using traditional methods, but has never been used in aquaculture before. Benchmark believes that the use of this method can provide a significant advancement in developing resistance to both PD and sea lice in salmon, and thus provide significant savings for the industry.

SalmoBreed's geneticists have been very satisfied with the accuracy of the results achieved from this new method thus far. It has long been proven that Genomic Selection provides increased genetic gain and reduced rate of inbreeding in species such as cattle, pigs and poultry. For the first time, SalmoBreed can implement this technology in salmon breeding as well, initially for PD and sea lice resistance. Through Genomic Selection the selection of parent broodfish is based on both phenotypic data (the physical expressions of a desired trait) and information from a large number of DNA-markers. In the case of PD and sea lice resistance, SalmoBreed utilizes approximately 50,000 DNA-markers (called SNPs).

PD Resistance

When breeding for PD resistance, SalmoBreed has previously used family information from challenge tests and Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) testing, which relies on correlations or trends between genes from a limited segment on the genome, resulting in a potentially significant genetic variation of the desired trait. By using Genomic Selection instead of QTL, the Company looks at the whole genome of the fish and can thus access a more complete picture of how the genetic architecture looks for the desired trait, resulting in a more accurate selection of broodstock.

Sea Lice Resistance

When addressing sea lice resistance, SalmoBreed has previously developed genetic ranking based on family information from challenge tests. This meant distinction was only possible between families, without knowledge of the characteristics of the individual broodstock within each family. With Genomic Selection, it is possible to select those individuals showing the highest resistance to sea lice within each separate family, and hence get a stronger assurance that the eggs supplied have the desired genetic value of the trait of interest.

Genetic Selection allows for the selection of the best individual broodstock from all families, with the resulting increase in genetic progress and reduced rate of inbreeding creating a more sustainable breeding program. This means it will be possible to reduce the number of artificial sea lice treatments in the sea and result in future cost savings. The presence of fewer lice treatments is important for fish welfare, environment and working environment.

This is not only a breakthrough for Benchmark, but also for the entire salmon industry, which will have the opportunity to make use of the results from salmon fry already produced this autumn. Whilst definitive results in terms of efficacy are yet to be established, this advance in technology and method signals a step change in the salmon breeding industry, both in terms of efficiency and animal welfare.

The R&D leading to the application of Genomic Selection in salmon was conducted in cooperation with Nofima and other partners through an innovation project supported by the NFR (The research council of Norway). Further development of the Genomic Selection method for implementation in the Company's breeding program is being performed in cooperation with Nofima and Akvaforsk Genetic Center (AFGC), a sister company of SalmoBreed within Benchmark's Breeding and Genetics division.

"We are very proud of our success in adopting Genomic Selection for two important traits in our breeding program" said SalmoBreed's CEO, Dr. Jan-Emil Johannessen.

Malcolm Pye, CEO of Benchmark, commented, "It is fantastic to see SalmoBreed embracing the collaborative approach to innovation which typifies Benchmark's culture. The use of Genomic Selection is a major breakthrough for the salmon genetics industry, allowing us to be far more specific in our broodstock identification and resulting in a more sustainable process for both the animals themselves and their wider environment." 


For further information, please contact: 

SalmoBreed AS

Tel: 900 71585

Jan-Emil Johannessen, CEO

Dr. Borghild Hillestad


Cenkos Securities PLC

Tel: 020 7397 8900

Ivonne Cantu (NOMAD)

Russell Kerr (Sales)


Tavistock Communications

Tel: 020 7920 3150

Matt Ridsdale/ Niall Walsh


About SalmoBreed AS

SalmoBreed is a world leader in breeding and genetics of Atlantic salmon. It is headquartered in Bergen and owned by the British AIM-traded company Benchmark Holdings plc.

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Notes to Editors:


Founded in 2000, Benchmark represents a new model in sustainable business development based on applied biotechnology. Over the last decade it has built a successful group of companies on the economics of a sustainable food chain. The company is growing in response to a rapidly increasing demand for sustainable food, and in particular for seafood, from both mature and emerging markets.


The Group has four divisions: Animal Health which researches, manufactures and markets medicines and vaccines particularly for aquaculture; Sustainability Science which researches and informs sustainable development in the food industry, Technical Publishing which effects technology transfer through online publishing and education, and Animal Breeding and Genetics which is the second largest supplier of salmon eggs and genetic expertise in the world. Benchmark operates internationally with offices in the UK, Ireland, Norway, USA, Brazil, China, Russia, Iceland, Thailand, Belgium, Chile, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Australia and, as at 29 September 2015, employs 396 people. 


Benchmark is an ethical company with an explicit policy based on the "3E's" definition of a sustainable business - ethics, environment and economics - which guides its strategy and operations.


For further information on Benchmark please visit 




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