University of Nottingham
  • Print

Tom Ashton | Xelect

Genetic solutions for aquaculture

Xelect offers a cost-effective method for genetic management of breeding programs. A global leader in marker assisted selection for a variety of species including Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, sea bass and sea bream.

Tom Ashton, Operations Director at Xelect, took part in Biotechnology YES in 2011 during the last year of his PhD at the University of St Andrews where he studied the genetic basis of flesh quality traits in farmed Atlantic salmon.

Tom Ashton
“We quite literally followed the business plan we developed during the YES competition. It was a successful start to the business”


Tom has been a keen fisherman, marine biologist and fish farmer from a young age. Finding new technological solutions to improve efficiency and sustainability of aquaculture where an early ambition of his. "I considered new husbandry technology and domestication of novel species," he say "but the development of genetic tools presented itself as the greatest opportunity to apply my training and take advantage of rapid technological gains becoming available."

Novel technology

With the main focus of Tom’s PhD developing genetic markers for selection of Atlantic salmon there was great potential for commercialisation. On completing his PhD, an international patent was filed on the discovered markers and a business launched to market the IP. Xelect has now been trading for 4.5 years and has grown steadily in turnover, staff numbers and customer base. Today they offer a range of genetic services to the global aquaculture industry, serving over 40 companies in 17 countries.


Watershed moment

During the process, the entry that Tom’s team submitted was very closely modelled on the real business he was already looking to launch. “The event gave me some very useful ideas on the best strategy for commercialisation of our IP, without this we may not have been able to launch Xelect. The mentors were very knowledgeable and provided valuable insight and suggestions. They also gave us real contacts in the aquaculture industry which enabled us to better understand the workings of the business and thereby develop our business plan to good effect.”

Tom credits YES for providing the foundations for the business launch. “We quite literally followed the business plan we developed during the YES competition. It was a successful start to our business. Our company has changed somewhat since launch in light of unforeseen challenges and new opportunities, but the business model developed at YES provided the foundation.”

More information

Visit Xelect Ltd

Top impacts

Job creation and growth
Currently a team of eight which is looking to further expand by three in 2017. They regularly host interns from university programmes around Scotland.

IP and licensing
Xelect exploited the initial patented IP licensed from the University and has developed new IP from subsequent R&D efforts. This is now licenced to several major salmon farming businesses.

Around 90% of income is from export sales and the majority of this is from outside of the EU. 


Young Entrepreneurs Scheme

  • Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Nottingham University Business School
  • Jubilee Campus
  • Nottingham, NG8 1BB