Salmon firm seals fish deal in Chile

Salmon stock at a Benchmark facility
Salmon stock at a Benchmark facility
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Biotech firm Benchmark Holdings, which develops vaccines to keep fish healthy rather than using antibiotics to treat disease, is to take control of a salmon breeding operation in Chile following a £7m payment from its former joint venture partner.

Sheffield-based Benchmark said the Ensenada facility is a highly bio-secure hatchery situated in the Los Lagos region in Chile, with good access to the spring water required for the production of high-quality salmon eggs.

The Ensenada facility is being adapted to be suitable for maturation of broodstock, spawning and fertilisation of eggs. Benchmark said it expects that the first eggs from the new facility will be available in the first half of 2021.

Chile is the world’s second largest salmon producing country and is an important market in Benchmark’s long term strategy. The firm said it is focused on achieving full scale production at the bio-secure, land based facility.

Benchmark received the £7m payment from AquaChile, which was the second and final payment under the joint venture dissolution agreement.

As part of this agreement, Benchmark has completed the transfer of ownership of the Ensenada facility. The company has received the IP rights, genetics stock and biomass in the joint venture.

Benchmark also has a salmon egg facility in Salten, Norway. Production in Salten has been ramped up following the opening of the site earlier this year.

Global demand for salmon has grown by 6-7 per cent a year and is expected to increase substantially over the next decade.

The increased capacity will allow Benchmark to supply the global market with biosecure eggs year-round, a significant advantage for producers which is only possible with land-based production.

The firm is a world leader in salmon genetics.