St Andrews firm to choose biggest salmon fillets

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A SPIN-OUT company from St Andrews University has signed a deal to license its fish-selection technology to Norway-based genetics firm Salmobreed.

Xelect, which was launched in February, examines the genes of fish to find out which ones will produce the biggest fillets.

Those fish selected for their larger fillets are then used for breeding, which can push yields up by 6 per cent or about £600 a tonne.

Xelect chief executive Ian Johnston, professor of physiology at St Andrews University, founded the company with former student Tom Ashton.

Johnston said: “In any population of fish, there are natural genetic variations, some of which lead to more valuable fish than others. By developing genetic markers for, say, meat yield in Atlantic salmon, industry bodies can select the fish they wish to breed from therefore ensuring that all of the fish have a higher meat yield.

“Our work could ultimately improve the welfare of fish and lead to more disease-resistant and stress-resistant fish.”

Xelect, which was advised by Fife-based law firm Murray Donald, received start-up funding from the Biotechnological & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Having signed a deal covering Europe with Salmobreed, Xelect is now looking for other partners globally.

The spin-out company also carries out other genetic services such as disease identification, sex determination and stock tracing.

Scotland’s salmon-farming industry is worth £1 billion and exports fish to 60 countries.