According to Jonas Jonasson, CEO of the Atlantic salmon egg producer, Stofnfiskur, there are three things that ensure the company’s success in its breeding operation.
Situated around 30 kilometres from Reykjavik is the little village of Vogar, where the Benchmark-owned, Stofnfiskur, has its brood fish complex and incubation centre.
Driving along a narrow road, we pass a small petrol station and horses grazing on open land, before suddenly a fully fenced collection of buildings seemingly pops up out of nowhere; Stofnfiskur.
The person who welcomes SalmonBusiness is CEO Jonas Jonasson. He has headed the Icelandic breeding technology company since 2006. It doesn’t take long before the biologist with a PhD in genetics starts talking about one of the areas that he is most concerned with: Biosecurity.
“If you look over there,” he says, pointing in the direction of a pump, “That’s where we fetch up sea and fresh water from a depth of 200 metres, which has had no contact with wild fish. That ensures good biosecurity.”
He then listed three things that he considers the main strengths of the company.
“Good biosecurity,” he reiterated and continued, “use of Norwegian brood stock, and thirdly, seasonally non-dependent production”.
– Are you crazy?
Breeding of the Norwegian stocks has been taking place since 1991. Individuals from several brood stocks that had been previously fetched from Norway to Iceland were selected as the breeding nucleus. According to Jonasson, Norwegian customers, are particularly appreciative of the fact that eggs are produced here all year round.
“There is tremendous demand for these in Norway, due to so many RAS (recirculating aquaculture systems) plants being built now, and where incubation occurs perhaps four times a year. Therefore it’s important to have access to eggs at other times of the year.
A definite contrast to the situation as it was ten years ago:
“I remember ringing a producer and asking if he wanted eggs in July. His reply was: “Are you crazy? I’m on holiday at that time.” No one thinks that way now,” said Jonasson.
110-120 million eggs produced annually
The egg is placed for maturation in the incubation centre, where plastic cylinders hang suspended row upon row. Maturation takes 7-10 weeks, before it is then placed in a sorting machine (grader) for the purpose of finding the best quality eggs. There are four of these machines in the room.
“The machines each have a video camera, which measures the size of the eye, and picks out eggs that are dead separately from the eggs that are alive,” explained Jonasson.
After the live eggs have been taken out, they are packed and sent to destinations elsewhere in the world. In total, 110-120 million eggs are dispatched annually from Stofnfiskur. That’s enough to produce no less than 300,000 tonnes of salmon.
After a quick viewing of the brood fish, Jonasson took us to the so-called Crossbreed building, to round off our visit. This building houses eggs produced from Icelandic Stofnfiskur females impregnated with milt from Norwegian Salmobreed males.
The brood fish plant contains 20 tanks with around 1,000 fish in each tank.
According to Jonasson, access is considerably stricter at this building than for the incubation centre. For instance, employees may start their workday at the incubation centre and finish up at the Crossbreed building, but not the other way round.
“Let’s see if we can get in,” Jonasson says.
– Are there any top secrets in there?
“Goodness no, this is purely on account of biosecurity precautions,” replies Jonasson.
Well, we should have figured that would be the answer. Oh, and by the way; SalmonBusiness was allowed in.