From Academia to Aquaculture


Written by Ben Renquist, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, GenetiRate

When founding GenetiRate I was excited by the opportunity to translate my academic research to improve production agriculture.  

Having grown on a family farm in eastern Colorado with 5 generations having worked toward its success, I appreciate the sacrifice our world’s farmers make to ensure that our earth can meet the nutritional demands of our population.  I’ve greased tractors in the dirt, laid irrigation pipe in 100 degree Fahrenheit days, and I understand how commodity markets make nightmares and dreams come true.  As a result, I’m dedicated to ensuring my research improves the lives of agriculturalists around the globe.  

We were lucky to find that metabolic rate of embryonic fish predicted growth of fish.  In fact, we weren’t at all looking to improve fish growth, we were aiming to identify drugs and genes that improved insulin sensitivity and decreased obesity.  Still, with my background in agriculture, as soon as we saw that high metabolic rate embryos resulted in fish that grew more quickly, I immediately understood the implications.  

I was fortunate to have a faculty position at the University of Arizona where Kevin Fitzsimmons, previous president of the American Aquaculture Society, was also faculty.    Upon learning of our test, he was ready to apply this to improve growth in Tilapia, our first target species.   With his support and Renquist lab ideas we gained USDA and USDA Western Regional funding to prove the technologies benefits.   

In those preliminary studies we showed that sorting trout eggs or tilapia embryos based on metabolic rate could improve growth and feed efficiency.  Because the test my lab had developed was so basic to biology, we also showed that it could be applied to identify fasting growing oysters or treatments that improved the growth of lettuce.  

In 2018, we shifted our focus from university research lab to start-up.  Immediately, we learned the scale of aquaculture and realized that aquaculture would only apply our test if we could scale.  We spend the past 2 years developing this scalable technology for salmonids and we are excited to continue this venture with a proven industry partner as we scale the technology for all aquaculture species.  

I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to create a technology that farmers can apply to improve production, and given my Scandinavian roots, I have no doubt that both of my Swedish grandfathers would be proud.

The views expressed in IMV Technologies’ blog do not necessarily represent the views of the IMV Technologies Group but solely those of the blog post’s author