350 families of salmon are produced here annually. Join us in the most sacred room of the Benchmark.

350 families of salmon are produced here annually.  Join us in the most sacred room of the Benchmark.

– There’s so much people, work and time invested in this, it would be crazy not to have a backup, says Robin Johansen at Benchmark. We were allowed to join the breeding center in Bjornafjorden.

A cold, angry wind blows through the windows in Lunningdal. Inside the education center, it is quiet, and the temperature is appropriate for each room. Anyway, whether you’re roe, fried or smolt.

350 salmon families are produced here every year. About 350 bowls are smoked each day, and the day always begins in the “holiest and cleanest” room in the building, according to operations manager Tom Olsen: the hatchery room.

-We have a huge focus on biosecurity. We shouldn’t bring in any “feces” or disease from people, or from drinking water, for example, says Olsen.

There are a total of 384 families in the hatchery. Photo: Tina Totland Jensen

The facility was originally a research station for EWOS (now Cargill), which was acquired by Benchmark in 2015 and converted into a state-of-the-art breeding centre.

From north to south and back
The roe comes from the Benchmark hatchery facility in Salten in Nordland. Finally, a certain number of fish are tagged and sent back there, where the fish will grow for a few more years and then become parents of new generations.

We will only use the best in class to create new families from them, and then we will choose the best of the best. These are the fish that have the highest genetic value in terms of characteristics. On the way there, a lot of choices are made, Olsen says.

– What are the qualities that make a person “the best of the best”?

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Operations Manager Tom Olsen at the hatchery. Lunningdale roe is delivered in the fall, placed separately in trays. Photo: Tina Totland Jensen

There is a genetic team that evaluates the characteristics and develops an index for each fish individually, whether female or male. It is easy to think only about growth, but we must not forget about all the other things, such as disease resistance, sexual maturity and other quality standards.

Conclusion after four years
Those who score well across a range of characteristics are “top notch,” says Olsen.

-We also have some Rolls Royces or super fish. “They are the ones who score very well at everything,” adds Robin Johansen. He is a sales and technical employee at Benchmark.

Robin Johansen and Tom Olsen at the hatchery. When the fry have almost consumed the yolk sac after hatching, around February, they are transferred to starter feeding trays. Photo: Tina Totland Jensen

They are also testing for resistance to salmon lice, viruses and other diseases, Johansen says. But they didn’t get the facts until four years later, when they were able to see the fish’s characteristics in action.

Read also: Salmon geneticist: – There is no ceiling on the characteristics that we can focus on

The pie has doubled in size
In the starter feeding section, the families are still separated, but in larger tanks. A robot hangs from the ceiling, reading QR codes that show how much food to serve to each family.

QR codes from the hatchery are included. At the breeding center, they make sure that all the information follows the correct family from room to room, and that the information matches the fish in question.

Fry will leave here only when they reach 15-20 grams in weight.

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When they started in 2017, the fish weighed eight to 10 grams at a time, and now they weigh 15-20 grams, Olsen says.

– Only genetics does that. He says there is choice all over the world, and there has been a huge increase in growth.

The fry remain in the starter feeders from February until they look approximately like this in June. Photo: Tina Totland Jensen

Johansen adds that feed use could play a role in the increased growth they saw, but genetics are largely behind it.

– The most important tracking we do
-We tag about 100,000 fish every summer. One by one, Olsen says, with a steady hand.

In mid-June, candidates from each family are selected, drugged and marked. Tajin does it It can clear fish. In this way, you can follow the fish at different stages of its life cycle, and obtain information about the family it belongs to and what characteristics it has.

– The most important tracking process we do is knowing which families are weaker and stronger within different characteristics, explains Johansen.

“Poster season” continues until August. Here they also decide which fish will be sent back to Salten. After marking, the fry can be mixed into larger vessels in a new hall.

The feathers will brood and will be delivered around April, when they will reach a weight of around 200 grams. Today, there are 200,000 fish in the hall, an average of two dead fish a day, says Tom Olsen. Photo: Tina Totland Jensen

He has an emergency stock
The last stop is the smolt factory. From here, some of the fish are sent back north, while other sets of broodstock go to other roe producers for Benchmark.

Johansen says they also have families “stored” at other collaborative facilities, so that genes aren’t lost if something goes wrong.

It makes it safer for us. There’s so much people, work, and time invested in this, it would be crazy not to have a backup. Otherwise, he adds, we could inadvertently risk losing several years of work.

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Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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