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Scottish genetics specialist signs tilapia breeding deal

A FirstWave tilapia farm in Africa. The company will work with Xelect on a breeding programme that takes account of natural genetic variations. Photo: FirstWave.
A FirstWave tilapia farm in Africa. The company will work with Xelect on a breeding programme that takes account of natural genetic variations. Photo: FirstWave.

Scottish aquaculture genetics specialist Xelect has signed a partnership agreement with African tilapia farmer FirstWave Group to develop local high-performance tilapia breeds.

The breeding programme will cover Nile tilapia for FirstWave’s operating companies, Yalelo Zambia and Yalelo Uganda.

FirstWave is one of Africa’s leading aquaculture firms and operates a vertically integrated group of companies across the production, distribution, and retail of aquafeed and fish in southern and eastern Africa.

Staff at St Andrews-based Xelect will help develop superior tilapia strains for FirstWave.
Staff at St Andrews-based Xelect will help develop superior tilapia strains for FirstWave.

Ecosystem partners

The partnership with St Andrews-based Xelect will enable it to bring a data driven solution to its breeding management as the business continues to pursue ongoing improvements in cost leadership and production efficiency, it said in a press release.

“Success in leading innovation within African aquaculture requires the best ecosystem partners in addition to the best people,” said Tembwe Mutungu, FirstWave Group co-chief executive.

“We are excited to partner with Xelect as they apply their global expertise and cutting-edge, data-driven tools to our local husbandry practices in Zambia and Uganda. This will allow us to breed tilapia pedigrees adapted to our local production environments, while avoiding the use of foreign genetics that present a risk to ecological balance.”

Natural variation

Xelect chief executive Ian Johnston said: “We’re delighted to be working with FirstWave as they are clearly one of the biggest names in African aquaculture.

“We share their passion for creating a sustainable, local source of protein, and were immediately struck by their high standards of professionalism. We’re seeing more and more producers realise the value of harnessing natural genetic variation to create the best possible fish for local conditions and believe this will become a flagship example of best practice.”

The companies said an improved data-driven breeding programme will lay the foundation for precision aquaculture farming at FirstWave, with locally developed pedigrees of tilapia achieving superior performance in growth, quality, and health.

A FirstWave hatchery. Photo: FirstWave.
A FirstWave hatchery. Photo: FirstWave.