Day in the life: Jan-Emil Johannessen, Head of Benchmark Genetics

What’s your job title?

Head of Benchmark Genetics

How long have you been with Benchmark and what made you join?

Employed since March 2015, but before that as chairman of the board of SalmoBreed that was acquired by Benchmark in December 2014.  After buying SalmoBreed, Benchmark asked me to take over as managing director of SalmoBreed, which I accepted as a great challenge.

Can you describe your role?

Today I am head of Benchmark Genetics worldwide, including salmon activities in Norway, Iceland and Chile, tilapia in the US and Brazil and shrimp operations in Colombia, the US and Thailand. We are also running several breeding programmes for external customers. It is my job to make sure that we deliver results according to budgets and strategic plans, and at the same time live up the Benchmark values.  The most important asset of Benchmark Genetics are our employees, so it is important to make sure everybody knows what is expected of them, and to motivate them to do their very best in the daily work.

Where are you based ?

I am based in Bergen, Norway.

What’s your favourite part of the role?

Working with my team! It is important with solid plans, support and financing from the board and good products and services; but without dedicated people to execute the strategy and deliver the goods, it will never work.

What’s your biggest challenge?

The last two years it has been the strict limitations we have had on travelling, specially abroad.  I have not been able to meet with my teams around the world, I have not seen facilities being built in Chile, Florida, Iceland or Thailand, I have not met face-to-face a customer outside of Norway since March 2020. I have never met in person Pablo who leads our Chilean operations. But I hope to see him at the end of November!

It is also a challenge that we have different operations in many different countries. The shrimp industry is very different from the salmon industry, the same goes for the tilapia aquaculture industry.  So it is sometimes challenging to be on top of all situations in the different markets. Without experienced and well qualified local people employed in the different countries where we have activities, it would never work.

Tell us about the people you work with?

I work with a lot of highly skilled people in Benchmark Genetics. Of course, being a leading aquaculture genetics company world, genetics is our core competence and the genetic team consists of 15 geneticists, most of them with a PhD degree. They come from almost 10 different countries, so we are a truly international team.

But we also need people to produce the genetic material, to market and sell it and to take care of logistics, finance, IT systems, quality management, documentation and health. Health is really important in connection with aquaculture genetics; very often the production environments for our fish and shrimp is challenging, so the genetic work has to be done under some health restrictions.

What activities do you enjoy outside of work?

Like most Norwegians I like outdoor activities; skiing in the mountains during winter and sea and water activities during spring and summer. I try to find place for some physical exercise during the week, I think this is important after long days in front of computer and in many zoom and teams meetings.

What makes you happy?


I like to spend time with my family, my friends and my colleagues in the new office we have in Bergen.

What’s your favourite meal?

Lots of good food from the sea.  Specially if you have caught it yourself; cod; halibut, ling, crabs, lobster, crayfish…

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

I have not spent much time thinking about this; but after having seen a program about the pollution of our seas; may be to clean up all the plastic that every day is being thrown into rivers and the ocean, and prevent it from repeating itself.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Just now I would like to be able to go and see our operations in all non-European countries where we have people and establishments; Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, India.

If you were going on a desert island and could only take 3 things, what would you take and why?

A fishing rod and a hook and lots of fresh water!

What are you most proud of?

Professionally; to have contributed to developing Benchmark Genetics from a small start at the end of 2014 into a profitable world leading aquaculture genetics company today.

Personally; my family; wife Wenche and 3 kids Carl-Emil, Kristin and Henrik

What’s your favourite film of all time?

I am not a great film fan and cannot recall any movie that has shaped my behaviour.  When I watch a film, it is normally just for relaxing.

Favourite life motto?

No. I try to be nice to other people and be honest about what I do.

Night owl or early bird?

Early bird.

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