Benchmark, the UK aquaculture health and genetics to agricultural publishing business, has reduced its losses on 44% higher sales for the first half of its financial year.

The Sheffield-based business has reported an operating loss of £6.2 million on sales of £69.2m in the six months to March 31st 2017, compared to a loss of £15.2m on sales of £48m in H1 2016. Like-for-like sales, excluding businesses acquired in 2016, were up 14% to £31m (£27.3m).

The period saw £7.4m invested in ongoing construction of the combined land and sea-based biosecure salmon production facility in Norway, which should complete in 2019; a long-term collaboration agreement with Norway’s Salmar salmon producer to provide breeding and genetics services; and a contract with Thailand’s largest tilapia producer.

The company reports good progress towards a new “ground-breaking” sea lice treatment and delivery method, with the potential to replace current products becoming outclassed through target resistance. Benchmark’s new vaccine manufacturing facility at Braintree is now at the commissioning phase, with its first commercial batches expected in H2 2017.

“The Group is increasingly recognised by its customers, some of the world’s largest aquaculture producers, as a leading technology partner,” states chairman Alex Hambro. “The platform Benchmark has built over the last three years is delivering products with significant commercial potential, and the management team has displayed clear focus in its prioritisation of 2-3 key products which we expect to launch by the end of 2017.”

“The company’s foresight and dynamic development of the new product pipeline ensures that, as predicted disease pressures grow in certain species (such as salmon), pipeline products which have already been in development for a number of years are introduced to address those pressures.” The Group has 81 products in its pipeline, and anticipates an increasing number of product launches in 2018-19.