Torskeyngel fra avlsprogrammet. Atle Mortensen

Production biology

Knowledge about the production of fish, shellfish and macroalgae forms the basis for sustainable aquaculture. We carry out research on how to optimize the production of salmon, cod and cleaner fish, and contribute to broaden the spectrum of species used in farming.

We offer

  • Engaged and skilled researchers and employees within the fields of biology, technology, water quality, fluid dynamics modelling and big data processing
  • Biological documentation based on a wide range of equipment and methods for analysing the physiology, behaviour and welfare of the fish, as well as molecular-genetic and histological methods
  • We have great facilities for experimental studies, both in net-pens, recirculation facilities / recirculation aquaculture facilities, throughput plants and other specialized research laboratories
  • Studies carried out at fish farming facilities and in the field
  • Testing of new equipment and new technologies

Some achievements

  • Four generations of cod breeding
    Our researchers are responsible for Nofima’s Cod Breeding Programme. They have now reached their fourth generation of farmed cod, which have an approximately 40% faster growth rate than wild cod.
  • The cod’s sex-determining gene identified
    Along with CIGENE, we have managed to identity the cod’s sex-determining gene as part of the AquaGenome project. This means that we can now use a simple DNA test to determine a cod’s sex independently of its current life stage and long before it reaches reproductive maturity.
  • Leading the research on closed-containment facilities
    Our department is part of CtrlAQUA, a centre for research-driven innovation financed by The Research Council of Norway (NFR) and partners. The main goal is to develop technological and biological innovations that will make closed-containment systems a reliable and viable technology.
  • Indicators of fish welfare
  • We were charge of the collaborative project Fishwell and had the main responsibility for the publication “Welfare Indicators for farmed Atlantic salmon: tools for assessing fish welfare”, where we use existing knowledge to describe specific indicators for health and welfare among fish in different production systems and life stages. We have also put considerable work into implementing this knowledge in the fish farming industry.
  • Sterile salmon
    After many years of research, we have finally succeeded in developing a new and promising method for making sterile salmon without altering the genes or chromosomes of the fish. Our aim is to develop large-scale production of sterile farmed salmon in order to prevent interactions with wild salmon in the event of escaped fish, at the same time as we maintain the welfare and production characteristics of the farmed fish. Our main focus has been on salmon, but the work is relevant for all farmed species.

The aquaculture industry is facing a number of major challenges, including salmon lice, escapes, fish welfare, sustainability and production optimisation. We approach these problems from a broad perspective, and our experience and extensive expertise in biology and technology enables us to provide better solutions for the industry as well as our society.

Much of our research naturally revolves around salmon, but our researchers also have unique expertise in preparing new species for farming.

A wider spectrum of species

The researchers at our department focus on expanding the spectrum of fish that are fit for farming, such as cod, halibut, char and catfish. An ever-increasing proportion of our research efforts is now dedicated to the production of marine species lower in the food chain, such as king crabs, sea urchins and macroalgae.

We also have international experience with other farmed species than those commonly used in Norway.

Marine species often have very challenging early life stages. We work intensively with reproduction and production of fish larva and fry, as well as the production of live feed.

We have solved a great number of biological challenges, and the considerable experience of the researchers in this regard is key to achieving successful farming of cleaner fish such as lumpfish and ballan wrasse.

Cleaner fish are used to reduce the prevalence of salmon lice in the net pens, and thereby reduce the need for chemical delousing treatments.

How environmental and operating conditions affect the farmed fish

The surrounding environment affects farmed fish in a number of ways, in terms of both new technological solutions, varying operating conditions and climate change and environmental pollution.

We utilize our expertise in physiology, behaviour, welfare, histology, molecular biology, epigenetics and technology to create new opportunities and solve challenges that result from different environmental factors and changes in the fish farming industry.

We are also working to gain an understanding of how the surrounding environment is affected by fish farming activities and what impact environmental pollution and climate change have on the various species being farmed.

We work with a number of fields connected with environmental and operating conditions:

  • water recycling
  • semi-closed containment systems
  • production of regular smolt and large smolt
  • combating salmon lice
  • loss reduction and optimization of large-scale production
  • feeding
  • stress
  • circular economy
  • coexistence with other marine industries

We are increasingly working on applying a big data approach to optimise production in the aquaculture industry.

Applied animal welfare

Ensuring good fish welfare is a prerequisite for sustainable fish farming.

We have contributed to develop new operational methods to understand and evaluate the welfare of various species. Based on this research, we have also developed operational welfare indicators to quantify and improve the welfare of fish out on the farms.

These indicators can be linked to risk and used to manage and optimize the operations in the various farming systems and life stages.

Read more about:

Creating Value

Some results from scientific projects in production biology

World-leading crab research


Nofima is the world-leading interdisciplinary research group for red king crab and snow crab.


The cod has become livestock


The breeding and farming of cod is on its way to success. As with salmon, scientists have now domesticated Atlantic cod by selective breeding.


Ideal onshore fish farm tanks


How can we ensure decent swimming conditions and even distribution of oxygen and feed in the massive tanks used for onshore salmon farming?


Cod’s sex gene identified


Using a tiny DNA sample from cod, it is now possible to determine both the sex of the fish and whether it is a coastal cod or skrei.


Biggest is not always best


It seems that the largest smolt do not always perform best in the sea. New research shows that there is still more to learn about salmon.


Sociable lumpfish


Lumpfish are cleaner fish used to fight salmon lice. Good feed and the right environment are key for lumpfish to “thrive” at work.


See more examples of Creating Value

Related content

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The research station lies in central Norway, at the heart of Norwegian salmon production. Photo: Kjell Merok/Nofima
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