The jab that’s just the job


The new generation of vaccination machines are safe, effective and economical.

Immunisation of stock is now a standard practice in salmonid aquaculture and has been so for nearly three decades. In some countries it is actually illegal to transfer unvaccinated smolts to sea. The main routes of vaccine delivery are either through immersion or injection, and the methodology of the latter is developing rapidly. Whereas only a few years ago the vast majority of injections were delivered by hand into the fish’s peritoneum (IP), recent developments in both vaccine and vaccination technologies have seen some vaccines now requiring intramuscular delivery (IM). Modern vaccination machines must therefore be capable of both delivery routes. In Norway, the proportion of transferred smolts that have been machine-vaccinated is now more than two-thirds of the total and growing.

This important trend was largely behind the acquisition of Nordland Fishtech and Nordland Settvaks by PHARMAQ, part of Zoetis in 2017. At that time, these two Nordland sister companies were fledgling players in the growing vaccination sector of Norwegian aquaculture and had already developed the semi-automatic NFT fish vaccination and sorting machines. PHARMAQ saw this as an interesting opportunity to bring mechanised vaccination to the global aquaculture industry through its established international network.

The NFT machines are developed and fabricated in the heart of the Norwegian salmon farming area – Helgeland in Nordland county – very close to many end users. These fish farmers have been instrumental in contributing their knowledge, experience and expertise to the NFT team who have now developed three different models from the original NFT concept.

Dagfinn Strømme

“At Pharmaq we focus on enhancing our customer’s experience by understanding their needs which we recognize vary between customers and which is why we have developed three different NFT models. It is the customer’s vaccination regimen – i.e. what combination of vaccine formulations are used to immunise their fish – that decides the appropriate model for their circumstances,” says Managing Director of PHARMAQ Fishteq Dagfinn Strømme.





The NFT Fish Vaccination Machines Models

The machines are compact and robust, and occupy a small footprint compared to similar machines on the market. In addition, capacity can be upscaled to suit bigger operations by joining two machines over a common assembly table. PHARMAQ Fishteq currently produces three models, the NFT 20, NFT 25 and NFT 30. All models are designed to deliver different combinations of all commercially available fish vaccines according to the following:

  • NFT 20: Delivers one IP vaccine.
  • NFT 25: Delivers two IP vaccines through one needle, simultaneously. The vaccines can be of different formulations, such as water-based and oil-based. It comes with a specially developed duo-adapter that ensures that all individual doses are perfect mixes of the component vaccines. For special requirements, the NFT 25 can also be reconfigured to deliver three vaccines simultaneously in a single injection.
  • NFT 30: Delivers one or two IP vaccines. In addition, it has a special DNA intramuscular (IM) module that is capable of delivering vaccines that have been formulated to be administered through this route.

All the models are capable of vaccinating 2.4 fish per second at full capacity, 8 500 fish per hour. This eliminates extra handling of the fish so shortening the time spent out of water and ultimately leading to better fish welfare and production economics. Less stress for both the fish and the operators!

The sorting module splits vaccinated fish into three sizes which can be selected by the operator. If, occasionally, a fish has not been vaccinated it is sent down the fourth channel.

Facts about the NFT Vaccination Machines

Currently, the NFT machines can be used to vaccinate the following fish species:

  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • White fish
  • Arctic charr
  • Sea bass
  • Tilapia

The machines handle and vaccinate fish ranging in size between 120 mm and 250 mm (20-150 grams). They use a Machine Vision System to determine the inoculation site on each fish. This is achieved through image recognition software that has been specially developed to account for size and species in determining where the needle should be placed for each injection. Dose accuracy is an impressive +/- 2 %.

Vaccinated fish can be sorted into three different size categories which can be set by the operator prior to vaccination. In addition, the machine has a channel for misplaced, undersized or rejected fish. All data pertaining to the number of vaccinates, size and distribution can be easily exported from the machine by e-mail.

In addition, the machines have built-in warning and reminder systems to alert operators as to when important component changes are required as well as if there has been a fall in the pressure required to correctly inject the vaccines.

The operational requirements of the NFT machines include a supply of water, electricity and dry, compressed air. Internet is also needed for access to software updates and on-line support.


So, what are the key benefits of moving away from manual vaccination and towards using the NFT suite of vaccination machines?

  • Two NFT machines sharing a common fish table and four operators, have the capacity to vaccinate 17,000 fish per hour. This allows for fewer people on-site over a shorter period and, ultimately, better biosecurity. The high capacity also caters for large tanks that can be vaccinated in a single day – so there is less starve time required, less downtime and improved fish welfare.
  • Training of operators to become “super users” can be done without compromising the quality of injections; the machines also eliminate the risk of self-injection.
  • The machine can deliver up to three vaccines in the same operation, both intraperitoneal and intramuscular vaccines. Auto-sorting of fish in up to three sizes can be achieved in the same operation, eliminating extra handling of the fish, shortening the time spent out of water and ultimately leading to better fish welfare and production economics.
  • The high accuracy of both dose volume (+/- 2%) and injection site (+/- 0.3 mm) ensures consistently high-quality vaccination hour after hour, the whole day through.


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