Matís offers genetic and origin analysis of salmon in fish farming


Sæmundur Sveinsson

Research Group Leader

In the past few weeks, numerous farmed salmon have been caught in many parts of the country, which indicates that farmed salmon in salmon fishing rivers has become quite widespread in Iceland. Fish farming has been practiced in this country for decades to increase the number of fish in rivers. That culture is based on fishing for hatchery fish from the respective rivers and rearing the fry in hatcheries.

It is important to ensure that farmed salmon do not find their way into these farms, as this can greatly increase the genetic mix in rivers. In many cases, salmonids are easily recognized by their appearance, eg damaged fins and destroyed gill bars. It can be much more difficult to recognize salmon that have escaped early in the breeding process, as the traditional visual characteristics are not as obvious. Visual evaluation is not sufficiently reliable to remove fish originating from aquaculture. Genetic analyzes are therefore necessary to ensure that fish used for fish farming are wild. Matís has been carrying out genetic analysis of salmon for years, both for basic research but also to trace the origin of salmon caught in rivers.

The genetic analyzes that Matís offers are based on 14 genetic markers, the so-called Salsea set. These genetic boundaries are extremely sensitive and have been used to assess the population structure of Icelandic salmon. The genetic boundaries have also proven to be useful for tracing salmon caught as bycatch in pelagic fisheries off Iceland to rivers in Europe and Iceland. The genotyping kit is also sensitive enough to distinguish between farmed and wild salmon and can detect first-generation hybrids. A first generation hybrid is the offspring of wild salmon and farmed fish.

Matís offers fishing partners genetic analysis of fish to be used in fish farming.

Those interested are advised to contact Dr. Sæmund Sveinsson, specialist in genetics.


Successful autumn staff trip to Ölfus

On Thursday, September 21, the Matís staff took a step forward and went on an autumn trip east of the mountain. The day was sunny and beautiful and Ölfus looked his best.

The group's first stop was Rádhús Ölfuss in Þorlákshöfn. There, Kolbrún Hrafnkelsdóttir and Rúnar Þórarinsson welcomed us with coffee and donuts and introduced the group to the Ölfus Cluster, Grænan iðngarð, the activities of First Water and Jarðlífs and other exciting things going on in this rapidly growing municipality. It's safe to say that there was enough!

After the presentation, there was a field trip to the area of First Water, which is a closed land-based plant that is currently undergoing rapid development. It was impressive to walk around the area, which is huge and full of possibilities. Rúnar guided the group and showed how the structure has been in recent months and what the plans are for the coming seasons.

After a walk around the area, we stopped at the restaurant Hafinu Bláa, located at the Ölfusár estuary between Eyrarbakki and Þorlákshavn. Delicious lobster soup and freshly baked bread were served there and the group could enjoy the view and the mild weather in this pleasant place.

From there the path went up to Hellisheidi, in the house of Orku Náttúrunn and VAXA. Kristinn Hafliðason, or Kiddi in VAXA as he is fondly called, told about the structure and operations of the company, which reuses water and energy from the Hellisheiðar power plant in order to cultivate microalgae and produce sustainable food from them. The group got to walk around the production hall, which is a very pleasant experience because the whole area is bathed in purple light in which the microalgae thrive.

The group ended the day by having a cup of coffee at Hellisheði and heading back to Reykjavík.

Matís' staff would like to express their thanks for the wonderful reception in Ölfus.  


Conference on environmental impact and energy exchange in the fishing industry - recording

Last September 13, a Nordic conference was held on the environmental impact of the fishing industry and the energy exchange in the sector. The conference was organized by AG Fisk, but it is a consultation forum on fisheries issues that operates across all the Nordic countries for the directive of the Nordic Council of Ministers, which Iceland leads in 2023.

Jónas R. Viðarsson, manager of value creation at Matís, chaired the event on behalf of AG-Fisk. Many of the Nordic countries' leading experts on the issue gave talks, as well as Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Minister of Food, gave an opening speech. The conference was held in English.

The conference was recorded in its entirety and the recordings are available in the players below.

Photos from the event:

Recording from the conference, first part:

Recording from the conference, part two:

Recording from the conference, part three:

More information about the event and slides from the presentations can be found on his project page here: Environmental impacts and energy transition in the Nordic seafood sector


Course in algae biotechnology


Elísabet Eik Guðmundsdóttir

Project Manager

In collaboration with the University of Cambridge, SAMS (Scottish association for Marine Science), Fraunhofer and the Culture Collection of algae & protozoa, Matís offers courses in algae biotechnology. The courses are part of The EIT-food project Algae Biotechnology

The aim of these courses is to provide basic training and education in algae biotechnology. The cultivation of algae, their growth and biotechnology in laboratories and in experimental facilities will be discussed. Participants will get an insight into the world of experience of experts from both an industrial and an entrepreneurial perspective. This can help participants to start or improve their own activities related to algae.

Courses are offered both online and in person and will ensure the development and strengthening of a network for all participants from around the world.

The course is open to anyone with a BA, MSc or PhD degree or significant experience in the aquaculture sector or the food system, especially people from countries within the EU and EIT Food related countries.

Three ways to participate in the course:

  • A 3-day online course (28 -30 November 2023) followed by a 5-day on-site course (15 – 19 April 2024) at the University of Cambridge, Algal Innovation Centre, UK. (30 available places)
  • Only 3-day online course (November 28-30, 2023) (60 available places)
  • Only a 5-day on-site course (15 – 19 April 2024) at the University of Cambridge, Algal Innovation Centre, UK. (30 available places)

More information about the course as well as registration information can be found on the project's website here: Algae Biotechnology


Genetic Analyzes of Salmon at Matís

A lot has been done in Matís genetics laboratory in recent days with analyzes of supposed farmed salmon that have been caught in a number of rivers in recent weeks.

Matís has recently received salmon samples from the Norwegian Marine Research Institute for genetic research. In Matís' laboratory, genetic material is isolated and so-called delayed sequence analysis is performed. The Norwegian Marine Research Institute's experts then use the results to check whether the salmon is wild or farmed. If it turns out to be of fish origin, the genetic data is used to trace the origin of the fish. It is important to maintain knowledge, equipment and skills in order to be able to carry out these analyzes in this country. It ensures short transmission paths as well as promotes safer and faster analysis of samples. Finally, it can be mentioned that Matís and the Norwegian Marine Research Institute are jointly working on the development of a set of genetic parameters to assess genetic admixture from farmed salmon in Icelandic stocks.

Over the years, Matís has worked on many research projects on the genetics of Icelandic salmon. Research has shown, among other things, that populations in Icelandic rivers are diverse and that there are great genetic differences between and within watersheds.

See also:

Salmon in rivers - vigilance of anglers important


Insects, yeasts and microalgae protein sources of the future?

"It is really possible to develop food products for people and feed for animals that contain these ingredients. Products that are, as a result, in many cases a healthier and more environmentally friendly option." This is what Birgir Örn Smárason, professional manager at Matís says, but for the past four years he has led a large collaborative project where alternative proteins have been the research topic. The project is now coming to an end and a harvest festival is ahead when the final conference will be held in Bremerhaven on September 7 and 8.

The NextGenProteins project is a collaborative project of 21 parties from 10 European countries, but Birgir Örn led it and other Matís staff worked on various aspects of it. The main objective of the project was to develop, optimize and optimize the production of three sustainably produced neoproteins, and verify their use in various foods and feeds.

"In short, it can be said that all the objectives of the project have been achieved. Of course, there will be some small changes in focus over the course of the project due to new ideas or results, but overall the plan was a complete success and everything that was supposed to be delivered was delivered."

The new proteins examined in the project are insect protein derived from by-products of food production, single-cell protein which is a yeast mass that thrives on the sugars of forestry products, and microalgae grown largely on CO2 emissions from geothermal power generation. We worked with a number of companies on the development of feed and food, which were then tested by consumers and in feed trials. The production of these proteins is, by most comparisons, sustainable and environmentally friendly, with a much lower carbon footprint and requiring less water and land use.

"We also demonstrated ways to work with consumers and gain their consent, and presented strategic proposals to simplify and change government regulations and policies towards a more sustainable food system."

Good cooperation in challenging times

The past four years have in many ways been particularly challenging for collaborative projects between different parties and different research groups between countries, as the pandemic put a damper on things. Birgir says that the cooperation has been incredibly successful. It was possible to use the technology during meetings, but the project's relatives had to exercise their patience while waiting for the results of various measurements due to the closures at the laboratories.

"despite all this, it can be said that the project went as planned, and it is therefore best to thank a strong group of participants who have all worked hard to achieve the project's goals. We can also mention a good group within Matís who has led the project forward."

Kick-off meeting of the project

Greenish chickens

Various interesting and unexpected things can be revealed during pioneering research work like this, and Birgir recalls the challenges that arose when developing foods and feeds with microalgae protein. "The green color in microalgae is so strong that even in small amounts it takes over everything. In one experiment where chickens were to be fed feed containing microalgae protein, the feathers turned green!” With increased research work, it was later possible to develop ways to reduce or remove the color and dampen the taste, making it easier to develop food products and feed.

Great interest in the issue and a follow-up project in the making

According to Birgis, further research is needed and there is a lot of interest in the issue. The results of the project need to be worked on, showing how it is possible to scale up the production of new proteins and bring them to market with the approval of consumers and the government. Furthermore, work needs to be started to introduce neoproteins to consumers, show their advantages and explain the production process and why this can be a healthier and more sustainable option. The foundation for such work was laid in the project, which will be useful in the future.

Sensory evaluation of products with neoproteins

"Matís has been working on projects related to new proteins and sustainable food systems for a long time and has joined the group of leading people who conduct such research. We will of course build on this and continue this journey. Our goal is to have a positive effect on food production as a whole, whether we look at Iceland or Europe, with sustainability as a guiding light for the good of all".

The final conference of the project will take place on September 7 and 8, and it will be a sort of harvest festival. Birgir says he is most excited to meet the group again. The project went through all the waves of Covid which meant that we could not meet for more than 2 years which is very unusual for such a collaborative project and uncomfortable for many. "It will therefore be nice to be able to celebrate the success with all the participants of the project and discuss the next steps".   

We encourage those who are interested to follow the results of the project, which will gradually appear on its website and even sign up for the final conference. It is possible to watch the conference online.


The construction of Matís in Neskaupstað attracts attention

Recently, the web media Austurfrétt published a review of the updates to Matís equipment in Neskaupstaður that have taken place in recent seasons.

The coverage included an interview with Stefán Þór Eysteinsson, professional manager, who told about the latest addition in biomass plant Matís which is operated in Neskaupstaður, but it is a kind of centrifuge. In the biomass plant, you can find technologically perfect processing equipment that is well suited for the development and production of proteins and oils from by-products of food processing that can be used either in feed production or for human consumption and food production.

According to Stefán, the centrifuge is a definite backbone of the biomass plant's equipment complex and enables Matís to study almost all biomass that can potentially be further processed into some kind of product. In addition, the device allows us to scale up more with the aim of better simulating the real conditions at the customer's production site.

The news on Austurfré can be read in its entirety here:

A new device greatly increases Matís' research potential in Neskaupstaður

Matís' biomass plant can be found here:



LHÍ's visit to Matís

Students in the second year of product design at the Iceland University of the Arts visited Matís recently to get to know the activities and projects that are carried out here, but they placed special emphasis on how food will look in the future.

In the product design program, students receive, among other things, training in working on design projects in collaboration with associations, companies and institutions in society such as Matís. Þóra Valsdóttir, project manager at Matís, introduced them to the activities and the diverse projects that have been carried out here, before accompanying them around the building where they could see the facilities that Matís has to offer. Afterwards, the students had the opportunity to view VR videos from the project Future Kitchen in virtual reality glasses where the possibilities for the kitchen of the future are examined.

The videos are available on Matís' Youtube channel here:

Future Kitchen VR

The students were accompanied by the head of product design, Elínar Margot, who emphasizes that second-year students learn about food design and focus especially on how food and the culture around it will look in the future using the methodology of speculative design (e.speculative design).

The students asked about all kinds of diverse projects, so it will be interesting to see what they will do in the program and in the years to come.


North Atlantic Seafood Forum Innovation Competition

Since 2005, the North Atlantic Seafood Forum (NASF) has been an annual event where managers and stakeholders in the fishing industry and aquaculture meet in Bergen to learn about the main innovations and compare books.

This time, NASF will be held on March 5 – 7, 2024, and around 1,000 people are expected to attend the event. The target group of this three-day conference are managers and investors in the fishing industry, aquaculture and related industries, ie device manufacturers, marketing companies, banks, insurance companies, carriers, consulting companies, etc.

Among the things offered in the program is an entrepreneurship and innovation competition. 10 entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to present their solutions and compete for great prizes. This is an extremely good opportunity for entrepreneurs to draw attention to their solutions that benefit the fishing industry and aquaculture. You can see the companies that were nominated at NASF23 here. Applications for NASF24 are now open. Are more information and registration sheets available here and we encourage Icelandic entrepreneurs to apply.


What will the food of the future be like? NextGenProteins photo contest results

This summer the project was completed NextGenProteins, which Matís is working on, for a photo competition for students aged 8-10. The topic was the food of the future, and the students sent in their graphic representation of how they envisioned the food of the future.

It is nice to say that the photo competition received more than 50 magnificent photos from elementary schools from all over the country. The pictures were hung inside the walls of Matís and staff and visitors were given the chance to vote for their favorite picture. Three films won outright and there was a lot to win. The first prize was a Nintendo Switch Light computer, the second prize was ISK 15,000. a gift certificate to Smáralind and the third prize was ISK 10 thousand. gift certificate in Spilavini. All winners have been contacted.

Here you can see the top three places in the photo competition:

1st place Saga Vogaskóli
2nd place Íris Vogaskóli
3rd place Victoria Höfðskóli

The winning photo has been sent to Germany, where it will be shown at the final conference of the NextGenProteins project, together with the winning photos of other nations participating in the project.

Matís and NextGenProteins would like to thank everyone who participated in the photo competition for their participation!