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IctioBiotic has produced a probiotic aimed at reducing the impact of SRS in salmon farming. Photo: IctioBiotic.
IctioBiotic has produced a probiotic aimed at reducing the impact of SRS in salmon farming. Photo: IctioBiotic.

A start-up company that has created a farmed salmon probiotic aimed at preventing diseases including salmon rickettsial syndrome (SRS) is planning trials across Chile.

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It is estimated that the Chilean salmon industry loses about US$750 million due to the piscirickettsia salmonis (SRS) bacterium, which is also a problem for Canadian salmon farmers.

The Chilean biotechnology start-up IctioBiotic created an oral probiotic that, mixed with food, prevents SRS and other diseases by stimulating the immune system of fish and improving by between 30% and 80%. 

Francisco Ascui:
Francisco Ascui: "The disease is causing havoc here."

Tested in saltwater

“It’s like a chamito (a probiotic milk drink),” IctioBiotic chief executive and co-founder, Francisco Ascui, told Chilean financial newspaper Diario Financiero.

The firm will partner with a multinational fish feed manufacturer - the name of which hasn’t yet been diclosed - which will allow the probiotic to be administered throughout Chile.

“Our product will be mixed with the feed, which will allow it to be tested in saltwater, with larger fish. We are moving forward with the tests at the company’s facilities to begin the sale by the end of 2019. In the beginning we are going to address the Chilean market because the disease is causing havoc here,” said Ascui, an agronomist and former wine industry executive.

Industrial scale

IctioBiotic was a spin-off from a consortium which the University of Santiago and salmon farming companies participate in and which is promoted by Chile’s economic growth development organisation, CORFO.

In 2018 IctioBiotic became independent, raised capital, added new partners and began to produce the probiotic on an industrial scale in Spain. 

“In Chile it can be produced, but not on an industrial scale. We have a contract with a Spanish company that does the manufacturing, and the innovation is already patented,” said Ascui.

The executive added that in Chile, the market of biotherapeutic additives is worth around $30 million per year. “We think we could have a 5% to 10% stake in a reasonable period,” he added.

The firm was one of six start-ups that took part in the second Hatch three-month aquaculture accelerator programme, held in Cork, Ireland last year.

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