Research is a proactive approach

When we solve a problem or overcome an obstacle, everyone benefits.

We encounter many challenges as we learn more about sustainable salmon farming, and as an industry leader it is our responsibility to take a proactive approach to meet these challenges. When we solve a problem or overcome an obstacle, everyone benefits.

Our research focuses on fish health, genetics, nutrition and technology to ensure that our salmon and broodstock are strong and healthy and our operations are at the forefront of sustainable salmon farming.

At our dedicated R&D sites in Chile and Canada, we are always searching for new ways to improve salmon quality and make the task of farming more sustainable. We research and test vaccines and constantly seek ways to reduce antibiotic use while maintaining a healing impact for the fish.

We take great interest in innovative ways to use new technologies to enhance nature and ensure the health and welfare of our salmon. New systems that take an individualized approach to raising fish by using automatic image processing, for example, would give us comprehensive information about each individual salmon, while lowering fish stress through reduced handling.

Systems for closed containment in sea with water treatment against infections and the possibility of collecting sludge is also on our R&D agenda.

Research & Development areas and projects

Cermaq runs more than 50 research projects within key areas. Most of the projects are linked to the three most prominent sustainability challenges for salmonid farming; fish health, feed raw material availability and escaped salmon. Below we highlight a few projects

SRS- finding an efficient vaccine

The disease SRS (Salmon Rikettsial Septicaemia) is currently the largest economic and environmental sustainability challenge in Chilean aquaculture. Moreover, SRS is the major cause of antibiotic use in Chilean aquaculture. Cermaq has been engaged in this research since 2011 and was able to identify field isolates which are being used for vaccine development. New vaccines will be tested in 2016 in field trials in a number of sites of Cermaq Chile, and also in a benchmark trial at the R&D Center in Colaco.

Sea lice – a multi challenge

Sea lice are a continuous concern in the aquaculture industry. We have documented in trials very good results of using lice skirts to protect the fish from lice infection and using lumpfish as cleanerfish of salmon. Use of lice skirts is already implemented in production and full up-scaling of lumpfish is scheduled. Another research areaa has been developing a new qPCR (quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction) assay for determining resistance in caligus lice against chemical treatments, resulting in faster and more accurate testing of resistance of caligus lice in farming sites. Current research is now focused on finding and documenting non-chemical tools to prevent and combat sea lice infections.

Wounds and lesions – new bacteria identified

Wounds and lesions are continuous issues in salmon farming in general, but specifically for Cermaq in Finnmark (Norway) and in Canada. A PhD project, partly funded by the Research Council of Norway (RCN) on Tenacibaculum spp. causing ulcers in farmed salmon has described. We have published a new species, related to the outbreak of mouthrot in Norway, namely Tenacibaculum finnmarkense. Trial vaccines has been produced by Pharmaq for use in disease challenge tests. Further research, funded by the Research Council of Norway (RCN), will target vaccines against Mouthrot in Atlantic salmon in Canada.

Technology – developing New systems

Cermaq has since 2011been engaged in testing semi-closed containment systems, first a small scale pilot of AquaDome and then a full scale trial.

The Norwegian system for development licenses has resulted in two new concept from Cermaq and its partners; iFarm and FlexiFarm.

iFarm is based on photo recognition of the fish and changes fish farming from stock based operations to to individual-based farming. This photo recognition allows monitoring factors as growth, sea lice, disease, lesions and others aspects that affect the health and welfare of the individual fish, and will bring fish welfare and fish health to a new level. In addition, it is possible to separate the fish that needs treatment, for example against sea lice. Thus, the extent of sea lice treatments will be dramatically reduced.


FlexiFarm is a floating closed containment system based on flow-through technology that advances closed containments to a new level. FlexiFarm treats inflow of water for all infections before entering the containment. The inflow of water will first be filtered and then treated by UV-light to prevent intake of lice, algae, bacteria, and virus. Hence, there will be no lice or infections within the containment and no lice or infections let out from the containment. FlexiFarm will have a system to grind and spread the sludge to avoid point loads underneath the farming sites. The discharge of organic material can be adapted to the capacity of the area. By grinding the sludge no entire feed pellets will be discharged from the containment. FlexiFarm will also have the possibility to collect the sludge.  

Genetics – identifying disease resistance

In Chile Cermaq has started screening and implementation of QTL (quantitative trait locus – a section of the DNA) markers for resistance in Atlantic salmon against the diseases SRS and IPN. The purpose is to be able to produce QTL eggs directly from the Cermaq breeding population. The frequency of IPN QTL was demonstrated to be high, and no outbreaks of IPN have been recorded so far in offspring with this QTL.


The people - our research team

A competent research organization is based on highly qualified individuals organized in to team often also including operational staff in the farming regions. Cermaq’s central R&D team with 8 researchers works closely with the dedicated R&D personnel in each of the operating companies hence optimizing the output of our R&D activities.

Our research team takes part in setting the overall research agenda for the industry through participating in the industry research funds and national research organizations. 


The research facilities

Having research facilities in the regions of our operations is key for testing under the relevant conditions and situations. Cermaq has research facilities in Chile and Norway.

Colaco, in Region X in Chile

Cermaq's R&D Center has offices, laboratory and 18 net pens of semi-commercial size. The facility can be used for trials on feeds, vaccines, non-pharmaceutical treatments, genetics and technology assessment.

The facility has been key for research on feed trials for reduction of bone deformities, which improves the fish health and welfare of our fish. Also on our research on SRS, a disease causing high usage of antibiotics in Chile, through an on field QTL SRS testing of Fish.

Finnmark, Norge

Cermaq Norway has four R&D licenses for Arctic Salmon Salmon Research Centre for the period 2015-2020. The center, which will do research on optimal feed for salmon farming in Arctic environment in Finnmark, is a cooperation between Cermaq, EWOS,  NOFIMA, University of Nordland, and Norwegian University of Life Sciences. The four licenses correspond to 3120t MAB.

At full capacity the center will use three sites with 12 cages each. The salmon which will be grown from smolt to harvest.

Bergen, Norway

Cermaq’s global fish health research team is located at Technology Center of the University in Bergen (Høyteknologisenteret), where we work in close cooperation with academics from other institutions engaged in research related to the seafood industry.

Cermaq is a partner in in two Centers of Research Based Innovation (SFI), CtrlAqua and EXPOSED.


Fresh water technologies

In the first phase of life, the salmon are most sensitive and vulnerable. The production is carefully monitored to ensure that all aspects of the water quality are kept within the optimal limits.

The smolts are raised in facilities on-land. Systems where the fish are exposed to fresh water flowing through the tubs are still frequent, but more predominant are facilities where the water is reused, called Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). In any case the water emissions to water are purified to adhere to regulations on water quality.

In a RAS the use of water is dramatically reduced, and advanced technology is used to monitor and manage water qualities as oxygen, TAN (total amonia nitrogen), NO2-N, CO2 and more. The RAS technology requires more energy than flow through technology.

The on-land closed containments makes the collection of waste from the smolt possible, and as the waste does not contain much salt the waste which is loaded with nutrients is suitable as fertilizers.

During the fresh water phase the fish are sorted for size and is vaccinated. Handling is stressful to the fish and hence the fish are first sedated.

Regulation of light and water temperatures influences the natural smoltification process, i.e. when the fish become mature to move from fresh water to sea water, and this process is carefully managed to get all the juvenile fish ready at the same time.

The smolts are transferred to sea sites in well boats. Where fresh water sites are located off coast the first part of the transport is in tanks on trucks.


Salt water technologies

The net pens utilise the optimal natural conditions of sea temperature and currents which are the basis for the location of the main regions for  salmon farming. Whereas the individual ring pens are most common in Norway, the steel constructions are more frequently used in Chile and Canada. For both types the development in the nets, the moorings and monitoring systems are in principle the same.

In Chile and Canada special predator nets are used to avoid attacks from large sea mammals such as sea lions.

Closed containment systems for reduced environmental impacts from farming are being tested by Cermaq and other farming companies. These systems are currently not sustainable. Cermaq is partner in the Center for research based Innovation (SFI) CtrlAqua where the main goal is to develop technological and biological innovations that will make closed systems a reliable and economically viable technology.

Cermaq is partner in the Center for research based Innovation (SFI) EXPOSED which has the goal to develop knowledge and technologies for EXPOSED aquaculture operations, enabling a sustainable expansion of the fish farming industry into areas which today are unavailable to industrial fish farming due to remoteness and exposure to harsh wind, wave and current conditions.

Cermaq is also engaged in a closed containment system, FlexiFarm, based on flow-through technology where inflow of water is treated for all infections before entering the containment. The inflow of water will first be filtered and then treated by UV-light to prevent intake of lice, algae, bacteria, and virus. Hence, there will be no lice or infections within the containment and no lice or infections let out from the containment. FlexiFarm will have a system to grind and spread the sludge to avoid point loads underneath the farming sites. The discharge of organic material can be adapted to the capacity of the area. By grinding the sludge no entire feed pellets will be discharged from the containment. FlexiFarm will also have the possibility to collect the sludge.

A wealth of advanced technologies is used in the salt water phase. Some examples are:

  • Sea lice skirts, 5-10 meter long skirt drawn outside the pen which keeps out sea lice larvae
  • ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) used to monitor the nets on a regular basis and when needed
  • Acoustic deterrents to keep predators away is used carefully at some sites
  • Eco net, a non-fibre wire net with hard surface that resists marine fouling and virtually escape proof
  • Scanning of fat profile in live fish is done at the site during the growth phase.

Suppliers are key for innovation in our industry

The suppliers of transport of live fish in well boats have developed advanced systems for precise counting fish when smolts are transferred to sea and when transported to the processing plant, and biosecurity measures to ensure fish health and maintain environment.

Feed suppliers have through innovation transformed the industry and continue to drive innovation related to all aspects of the feed. The low carbon footprint from salmon is mainly due to research and innovation by the feed suppliers. High quality feed is imperative for good fish health.


Our recent scientific publications

Some recent scientific publications with Cermaq contribution:

  • Christopher Good, John Davidson, B.F. Terjesen, H. Takle, J. Kolarevic, G. Bæverfjord, Steven Summerfelt: The effects of long-term 20 mg/L carbon dioxide exposure on the health and performance of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar post-smolts in water recirculation aquaculture systems. Aquacultural Engineering https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0144860917302145

  • J.M.R.Gorle, B.F.Terjesen, V.C.Mota and S.Summerfelt: Water velocity in commercial RAS culture tanks for Atlantic salmon smolt Production.  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0144860917302182 Aquacultural Engineering

  • Are Nylund, Haakon Hansen, Øyvind J. Brevik, Håvard Hustoft, Turhan Markussen, Heidrun Plarre,and Egil Karlsbakk: Infection dynamics and tissue tropism of Parvicapsula pseudobranchicola (Myxozoa: Myxosporea) in farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).https://parasitesandvectors.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13071-017-2583-9
  • S B Småge, K Frisch, Ø J Brevik, K Watanabe, A Nylund: First isolation, identification and characterisation of Tenacibaculum maritimum in Norway, isolated from diseased farmed sea lice cleaner fish Cyclopterus lumpus L
  • Otterlei A, Ø J. Brevik, D Jensen, H Duesund, I Sommerset, P Frost, Mendoza, P McKenzie, A Nylund and P Apablaza. Phenotypic and genetic characterization of Piscirickettsia salmonis from Chilean and Canadian salmonids. BMC Veterinary Research  Doi: 10.1186/s12917-016-0681-0
  • Agusti C, S Bravo ,G Contreras , MJ. Bakke, K O. Helgesen, C. Winkler, Ma. T Silva, J.Mendoza, T E. Horsberg. Sensitivity assessment of Caligus rogercresseyi to anti-louse chemicals in relation to treatment efficacy in Chilean salmonid farms. Aquaculture Volume 458, 2016, Pages 195–205. Doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2016.03.006
  • Apablaza P, Brevik ØJ,Mjøs S, Valdebenito S, Ilardi P, Battaglia J, Dalsgaard I, Nylund A., 2015. Variable Number of Tandem Repeats (VNTR) analysis of Flavobacterium psychrophilum from salmonids in Chile and Norway. BMC Veterinary Research (2015) 11:150. DOI: 10.1186/s12917-015-0469-7
  • Gutierrez AP, Yáñez JM, Fukui S, Swift B, Davidson WS., 2015. Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) for Growth Rate and Age at Sexual Maturation in Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar). PLoS ONE 10(3): e0119730. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0119730
  • Markussen T, Agusti C, Karlsbakk E, Nylund A, Brevik Ø, Hansen H., 2015. Detection of the myxosporean parasite Parvicapsula pseudobranchicola in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) using in situ hybridization (ISH). Parasites & Vectors (2015) 8:105. DOI 10.1186/s13071-015-0718-4.
  • Småge SB, Brevik ØJ, Duesund H, Ottem KF, Watanabe K, Nylund A., 2015. Tenacibaculum finnmarkense sp. nov., a fish pathogenic bacterium of the family Flavobacteriaceae isolated from Atlantic salmon. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (2015). DOI: 10.1007/s10482-015-0630-0
  • Steigen A,Karlsbakk E, Plarre H, Watanabe K, Øvergård AC, Brevik Ø, Nylund A., 2015. A new intracellular bacterium, Candidatus Similichlamydia labri sp. nov. (Chlamydiaceae) producing epitheliocysts in ballan wrasse, Labrus bergylta (Pisces, Labridae). Arch Microbiol (2015) 197:311–318. DOI: 10.1007/s00203-014-1061-4
  • Helgesen KO, Bravo S, Sevatdal S, Mendoza J, Horsberg TE. 2014. Deltamethrin resistance in the sea louse Caligus rogercresseyi (Boxhall and Bravo) in Chile: bioassay results and usage data for antiparasitic agents with references to Norwegian conditions. Journal of Fish Diseases,doi:10.1111/jfd.12223
  • Oelckers K , Vike S, Duesund H, Gonzalez J, Wadsworth S, Nylund A. 2014. Caligus rogercresseyi as a potential vector for transmission of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) virus in Chile. Aquaculture, 420-421, 126-132.
  • Siaha A, Duesund H, Frisch K, Nylund A, McKenzie P., Saksida S. 2014. Development of a Multiplex Assay to Measure the Effects of Shipping and Storage Conditions on the Quality of RNA Used in Molecular Assays for Detection of Viral Haemorrhagic Septicemia Virus. Journal of Aquatic Animal Health 26:173–180.
  • Vike S. 2014.Infectious salmon anaemia in Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L. in Chile – transmission routes and prevention. Doctoral thesis. Univ Bergen, Norway.
  • Vike S, Duesund H, Andersen L, Nylund A. 2014. Release and survival of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) virus during decomposition of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) Aquaculture, 420-421, 119-125.
  • Vike S, Oelckers K, Duesund H, Erga SR, Gonzalez J, Hamred B, Fretted Ø, Nylund A. 2014. Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) Virus: Infectivity in Seawater under Different Physical Conditions. Journal of Aquatic Animal Health, 26 (1). 33-42,
  • Yañez AJ, Molina C, Haro RE, Mendoza J, Rojas-Herrera M, Trombert A, Silva AX, Cárcamo JG, Figueroa J, Polanco V, Manque P, Maracaja-Coutinho V, Olavarría VH. 2014. Draft genome sequence of virulent strain AUSTRAL-005 of Piscirickettsia salmonis, the etiological agent of piscirickettsiosis. Genome Announc. 2(5):e00990-14. doi:10.1128/

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