Research and DevelopmentAs a breeding and a genetics company it is very important for our customers that we are continuously developing with the aim of improving our product. We invest substantial of our operating income on research projects and developing programs.
Fish are constantly exposed to pathogenic microbes and parasites in their aquatic environment. The relatively low infection rate of fish is remarkable and has inspired detailed studies of their defence system.
Fish possess both an adaptive and an innate immune system; however the importance of the adaptive immune response in fish varies considerably between species. The adaptive immune system in fish has a limited antibody repertoire, is slow and temperature dependent, with antibody production taking several weeks. In contrast, the innate immune system is fast acting, and relatively temperature independent and therefore of primary importance in combating infections in fish.
The defence barrier against infections is of a physical, chemical and cellular character. The physical barrier is made of scales, mucous surfaces and skin. The chemical barrier is made of a large repertoire of soluble factors such as complement, IgG, CRP, lysozyme, lectin, alkaline phosphatase, antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and many other proteins playing a role in biostatic and biocidal activity.
At the cellular level there are some parallels to mammals, but fish lack bone marrow and instead head, kidney and spleen contain high amounts of macrophages and are thought to serve a similar function as bone marrow and lymph nodes in mammals. The epithelium of fish also has an important defence function and contains some of the cells known in mammals, such as dendritic-like cells, but also specialized cells such as rodlet cells, which are thought to have a function as immune cells.
Pattern recognition receptors, key molecules in the recognition of microbial pathogens, have been identified in fish and their activation leads to the expression of genes involved in inflammation, antibacterial and antiviral activity. In recent years several fish antimicrobial peptides have been characterized including the two main classes known in mammals: defensins and cathelicidins. Several other antimicrobial peptides such as pleurocidin, hepcidin and a liver expressed peptide called LEAP-2 have also been identified in fish.
StofnFiskur has for some years done basic research in the expression of a number of components of the innate immunity in our Atlantic salmon families, from green eggs to smoltification and found a clear temporal expression activation and also a considerable variation between families. In the near future Stofnfiskur will continue this research with the aim to increase the robustness of our stocks by selecting fish with stronger innate immunity.
Carcass quality traits
StofnFiskur has been breeding for improved carcass quality traits since 1996. One of our main quality traits are fat and pigment in the fillet. They are measured on half- and full sibs of the breeding candidates.
By using linear models the breeding candidate receives a breeding value based on its half and full sibs fat and pigment values. Fat is measured as % fat in the fillet and pigment is measured mg/kg Astaxhantine in the fillet.
In the year 2011 Stofnfiskur installed a state of the art QMonitor into the slaughter line. QMonitor obtains fat values from the fillet by measuring back scatter from the fillets in the near infrared spectrum and the pigment values are determined by back scatter from the fillets in the visible range of the light spectrum.
Stofnfiskur in co-operation with the AVS research fund and Nofima are doing a Phd. project conducted by Ólafur Hjörtur Kristjánsson, a PhD. in animal breeding and genetics at the Norwegian University of Life Science. Ólafur was supervised by Bjarne Gjerde (Nofima, IHA NMBU), Jónas Jónasson (Stofnfiskur) and Marie Lillehammer (Nofima).
Main emphasis of the PhD project was to analyse and improve the methodology of breeding for fat and pigment in fillets of Atlantic salmon. One of the problems with fat in the fillet is high positive genetic correlation between fat in the fillet and weight of the fish. This meant that to decrease the fat in the fillet the weight could decrease which is unfavourable. This is done by sample slaughter over time. By this method the weight on all fish was similar and fat can then be analysed with reduced impact of size.
This PhD. Study has given StofnFiskur valuable insight and experience as we continue to select for the best carcass qualities while also improving in growth and robustness.