Brainpower is Paying Big Dividends for Mowi Canada

Trevor Dawes has come up with length boards for measuring and barcode innovations that are simplifying processes in broodstock, and helped save time and increased accuracy – and improved harvest yields. 

Dawes, who has been with the company for 23 years and served as the Breeding and Broodstock Technical Manager since 2015, says developing the length boards was a simple solution. 

1 Trevor Dawes-Wharfside-Mowi Canada West

“I had no idea how well they would work and how inexpensive they would be compared to other length boards on the market,” he notes. “When taking the data for our breeders, we want to ensure it is accurate as we use this data to generate indexes that we use to tell us which fish we should use in our breeding program. 

“By putting a barcode every centimeter on a length board, we were able to incorporate the barcode scanners we were already using for other entries to enter the length of the fish into the computer without any errors. The fish lays on the board as normal, but the scanner just reads the first barcode past the tail and goes directly into the computer.” 

Dawes says the easiest way to explain the barcode is that it is just an extension of the keyboard, and the reader converts the code into the characters with which it is formatted. 

“We have taken it further now to incorporate other information we record on the fish,” he adds. “For example, we have been recording gill health and we found that it is a heritable trait, allowing us to add this as information we can use in our breeding choices.” Measuring the size and health of broodstock is key to understanding the population and determining the best approach to breeding. 

“Breeding is all about good data in and good data out,” Dawes says. “Capturing that data is the most important to provide our geneticists with good information so they can create breeding values for us. 

“One way to do this we found is using barcodes so that the same information is being captured without mistakes, and it can be captured quickly.” 

This has allowed the company to track individual fish, and implement what is essentially a “dating service” for fish reproduction. 

“All of our potential broodstock used for breeding are tagged and genotyped,” he says. “We track the individual fish using a RFID tag (PITTag), but we also have the family information as well attached to this fish. Our geneticists will let us know which female and male we should cross to make our next generation. It is our job to know where these fish are and ensure we make the correct mating.” 

Much has changed over just the past five years, and Dawes explains that with the new Genotyping processes, Mowi Canada West is able to know more about each individual fish within a family, which is helping with gains in the breeding program. 

“Mowi now has over 60,000 fish pittaged at four sites,” Dawes says. “Prior to 2015 we would only pittag at one site approximately 4,000 fish. With tracking these fish, we have had to make it user friendly using technology to make things flow easier.” 

Technology has made his job simpler. 

“Technology has made tracking all of our individual pittaged fish easier by reducing time entering data manually,” he says. “Another example of new technology would be the use of using ultrasound on our potential breeders. With this, we can reduce our overall numbers which results in less handling of fish.” 

Dawes adds that Mowi Canada has tagged and run simple DNA samples at their land-based facility in Duncan, which allows identification of whether a fish is male or female earlier in their life cycle. 

“That allows us to increase the number of eggs we can produce at this one facility. This is technology that allows us to utilize our sites to their fullest capacity,” he says. 

Dawes adds that Mowi Canada has tagged and run simple DNA samples at their land-based facility in Duncan, which allows identification of whether a fish is male or female earlier in their life cycle. 

“That allows us to increase the number of eggs we can produce at this one facility. This is technology that allows us to utilize our sites to their fullest capacity,” he says.