From the sea to your dinner table: University start-up investigates genetic selection in aquaculture

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Photo: Xelect and EOS
Photo: Xelect and EOS
Photo: Xelect and EOS

Xelect Limited, a start-up company connected to the University of St Andrews, and EOS Technology Investment Syndicate has issued a joint press release announcing the completion of a successful round of funding. Xelect Limited, which provides various genetic services to the aquaculture industry, originated from physiology professor Ian Johnston’s research on the genetic basis of fillet quality in Atlantic salmon. The company was launched in 2013 with 2011 University graduate Dr Tom Ashton, whose PhD research also focused on Atlantic salmon.

The aim of the technology is to improve customers’ productivity in order to satisfy increased demand for quality seafood. Services offered include genotyping, texture analysis and various other molecular genetic services, as well as project planning, data analysis and scientific consultancy.

The press release states: “In the face of increasing environmental constraints, the use of genetic selection will need to become the norm in order to meet increasing demand for seafood as the human population grows by an estimated nine billion by 2050.”

The £170,000 raised by Xelect and EOS will be used to establish an independent laboratory and office space in St Andrews, complete with the necessary genetic analysis equipment. Xelect also plans to recruit overseas sales agents and scientific staff, as well as invest in both in-house and academic research.

To supplement future expansion, the company is in the process of applying for a £50,000 grant from the East of Scotland Investment Fund.

Founder and gatekeeper of EOS Technology Investment Syndicate Kevin Grainger said: “Xelect is at a more advanced stage than most of the start-up businesses we invest in, in that it is in its third year of revenue and is profitable.”

Grainger also said that the syndicate is “excited about the global potential for its IP [intellectual property] and look[s] forward to working with Ian, Tom and the Xelect team to maximise this potential over the coming years.”

Xelect appears equally excited about the opportunity, stating that they “feel confident [EOS] will help [them] to accelerate growth and prof- itability by providing not only cash but valuable support and business expertise.”

Third year international relations student Matthew Leonard, who worked with EOS on the deal, commented: “Tom and Ian have built an amazing company with Xelect and have unrivalled knowledge of the sector, as well as a genuine passion for delivering genetic solutions within the aquaculture industry. I am personally very excited to be working with them both to facilitate Xelect’s growth plans in the future. Observing firsthand the quality of Xelect as a University of St Andrews spin-out company is testament to the calibre of our great institution.”

Mr Leonard was also involved in starting the St Andrews Angel Network, which facilitates agreements between angel investors and startups connected to St Andrews.

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