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Norwegian technology can trace precise origin of farmed fish.

 By Dag Haugse,

CEO, SalmoTrace

Being able to trace escaped farmed salmon and other species back to its original location is desirable for both authorities and fish farmers. For consumers, it is reassuring to know that the food they eat is what it is marketed to be. Now, Norwegian developed technology can solve some of the aquaculture industry’s biggest problems.

The aquaculture industry is a great success and creates jobs and value both locally, nationally and globally. At the same time, the industry still has some fundamental challenges that should be solved. Two of these are escapes and the undermining of brand integrity.

According to the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, no one can tell with certainty how many fish escape from their cages each year, but there is little doubt that it is a significant number. In consequence farmed salmon may mix with wild salmon and cause irreparable damage to the biology of wild salmon rivers.

36 percent of seafood is incorrectly labelled

Less known is that perhaps as much as 36 percent of global seafood is incorrectly labelled. This affects the fish farmers’ brand integrity because it has a great economic value for fraudulent players all over the world to claim a false origin, and in some cases even a false species.

What these two challenges have in common is that precise identification of the salmon has so far not been possible. Today, no one can catch an escaped farmed salmon and tell with certainty exactly which cage it has escaped from. Nor can anyone at a fish market confirm a salmon’s origin with certainty. The same applies to farmed cod, an ever-growing industry.

Soon this problem will be history. SalmoTrace can, after many years of research and development, launch a solution that makes it possible to trace farmed fish throughout the value chain, from smolt to serving. This is done using unique DNA signatures. It is a method that does not affect the fish, neither in terms of health or quality. It is thus a method that is both precise and sustainable. In addition, it is cost effective.

Injected together with vaccination

When unique DNA signatures are injected into each individual fish, every farmed fish can be traced back to its correct origin. The DNA that is added does not change the fish or its product quality. The injection is normally carried out at the same time as regular vaccination, and then only adds a DNA signature that can identify each individual fish. The injected DNA is later detected through a rapid analysis, which can be done at any point through the value chain.

This technology has been used to DNA mark banknotes, fashion and pharmaceutical products, as well as other brands. The purpose is to be able to distinguish a legitimate product from a product that is counterfeit or distributed illegally. The technology has also been used in the petroleum industry, both in oil production and in connection with the distribution of refined petroleum products.

The aquaculture industry has been accused of being conservative and slow when it comes to address important challenges, in particular challenges that can affect short term profitability. Our dialogue with the industry indicates that this is about to change, and that the willingness to use new technology is considerable.

The aquaculture industry is an important part of the solution to the world’s growing need for sustainable protein. With SalmoTrace’s technology we can document precise origin, which will make the industry even more attractive.