Benchmark set for growth

Benchmarks research facility in Ardtoe, ScotlandBenchmarks research facility in Ardtoe, Scotland
Benchmarks research facility in Ardtoe, Scotland
Biotech firm Benchmark Holdings, which develops vaccines to keep fish healthy rather than using antibiotics to treat disease, has halved its interim losses as it gears up for growth.

The Sheffield-based firm said it helps make the food chain more ethically sound, economically viable and environmentally sustainable. Its major focus is on treating fish such as salmon at a time when fish has overtaken beef globally as a source of protein.

Benchmark anticipates making a pre-tax profit in 2019 after investing heavily in research and development in aquaculture (fish farming).

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The group's CEO Malcolm Pye said: "We saw a huge opportunity in aquaculture. The opportunity was so enormous to bring new technology in. We needed to inject much more money into research. We are now one of the biggest biotech players in aquaculture."

Fish is a much more efficient protein ​than many meats, with salmon only requiring 1.1kg of feed to produce 1kg of protein whilst beef has a ratio that is closer to 8:1.

Benchmark has four divisions​. Animal Health provides vaccines and non-antibiotic based treatments for health challenges such as sea lice in salmon​.

Its ​Breeding & Genetics ​division​ identifies helpful genetic properties such as meat yield​ and​ resistance to cold weather in brood stock and then produces ​fish ​eggs for farmers​ to meet their needs. In colder waters, it can breed salmon that can resist the cold.

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I​ts ​Advanced Animal Nutrition ​division was​ formed following the major acquisition of INVE aquaculture in 2015 and provides early stage nutritional products to the shrimp industry​.

​Its ​Knowledge Services ​division provides a consultancy service to some of the largest companies in the world including IKEA and M&S.

​While​ Benchmark’s profile in the UK is still growing, ​it is very well known within the aquaculture ​sector and ​the firm has partnerships or joint venture agreements with ​three​ of the top ​five​ salmon producers in the world.

B​enchmark is one of the largest salmon breeders in the world and it has a research and development facility on the west coast of Scotland.

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The firm has operations in 27 countries and most of its business is done in dollars so it hasn't felt the impact of the fall in the pound.

T​he group ​reported a 44 per cent increase in revenue to £69.2m in the six months to March 31. Like-for-like sales rose 14 per cent.

Adjusted earnings rose 10 per cent to £3.3m and the firm made an operating loss of £6.7m, down from £15.2m in the same period last year.

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