Benchmark declares de-licing breakthrough

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Global aquaculture player, Benchmark, said Tuesday that it’s R&D has yielded a “breakthrough” removal technique for the salmon-farming industry’s biggest problem, that of sea lice.

The salmon fitness outfit said a commercial-scale trial in Norway showed “100-percent efficacy” in removing sea lice for its new trademark de-licer Ectosan. Although Norwegian regulators are insisting on field trials through to 2019, Benchmark said the potential peak sales for Ectosan is GBP 40 million to GBP 50 million.

In mid-morning trading, shares in Benchmark were up 5.66 percent.

Its earlier trademark CleanTreat system de-liced farmed salmon “without ocean-water contamination”, implying Ectosan bears the “proprietary purification” hallmarks of the earlier offering. In this first field trial of “total treatment”, there was “no environmental impact” as the systm removes “detectable traces of medicine from treatment water before it is discharged into the ocean”.

Malcom Pye, CEO of Benchmark, called it “a big step towards a future where no medicinal residues are discharged directly into the oceans”, adding, “We expect to see substantial demand for the treatment.” In end-of-day trading on Monday, stock in the company Pye  leads was already up 3.77 percent.

“In 2016 sea lice infestation resulted in a five percent contraction in the production of salmon in Norway, equivalent to 70,000 tons or an estimated USD500 million at current market prices (according to Rabobank),” a Benchmark statement said.

The development is a nod to the “recognized lack of effective, environmentally and welfare friendly solutions in the market”. Lice problems have hemmed in Norwegian near-shore farming, sending the industry offshore, and Scotland’s new rulemaking are expected to make sea-lice a priority.

With CleanTreat, the company’s purifier system, medicinal components from treatment water are cleansed before being tested for particles and discharging back into the ocean.

“Chemical based bath treatments that are released into the water are one of the biggest objections to the aquaculture industry and CleanTreat works to solve this environmental challenge,” a statement said.