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Division of Food Production and Society

Bio-farming for bioactive compounds

Finished Last updated: 31.07.2023
End: dec 2023
Start: jan 2021

The objective of "Bio-farming for bioactive compounds" is to increase value in the Norwegian agricultural sector by producing bioactive compounds (phytogens) for addition to feed and packaging materials aimed to 1) increase shelf life of salmon feed 2) reduce winter ulcers in farmed fish 3) improve the health and intestinal flora in poultry, and 4) designing biodegradable and antimicrobial packaging materials.

Start - end date 01.01.2021 - 31.12.2023
Project manager at Nibio Mette Thomsen
Division Division of Food Production and Society
Department Horticulture
Partners NOFIMA, Veterinærinstituttet, Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry, Physical Chemistry of Polymers Department, Romania and several agricultural companies

Effect of e.g., variety, cultivation system and climatic factors on concentration of bioactive compounds will be studied in nine herb species oregano, yarrow, peppermint, hops, roseroot, maral root, sweet wormwood, purslane, and rosemary. 

Bioactive compounds will be extracted and tested for antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. The most potent extracts and active substances are selected based on unspecified (metabolomic) and targeted biochemical analyzes, laboratory tests and in experiments with salmon and chicken.

Effects of additives in fish feed will be investigated in laboratory models, to determine the antimicrobial activity of herbal extracts and their fractions on the growth of pathogens for salmon. Effects will be measured on growth, health and immunity of salmon, and effects on specific tissues such as head, kidney, skin, intestines and blood. Effects from extracts added to feed for boilers will be investigated in laboratory studies and in a feeding experiment with broilers.

The effects will be documented on performance, levels of intestinal pathogens, intestinal inflammation (necrotic enteritis lesions) and immune cells in peripheral blood and intestinal tissue. The third use of the extracts is to design new packaging materials for the food industry where antimicrobial herbal extracts are inserted into the packaging using technologies such as high-pressure treatment, ultrasound and electrospinning. The objective is for the antimicrobial properties to inhibit bacterial growth, increase shelf life and food safety in the product.

Publications in the project

To document


There is an increased interest in identifying beneficial compounds of plant origin that can be added to animal diets to improve animal performance and have a health-promoting effect. In the present study, nine herb species of the Norwegian wild flora or which can be cultivated in Norway were selected for phytogenic evaluation (hops, maral root, mint, oregano, purslane, rosemary, roseroot, sweet wormwood, yarrow). Dried herbs were sequentially extracted with dichloromethane (DCM), ethanol (EtOH) and finally water (H2O) by ultrasound-assisted extraction (UAE). The UAE protocol was found to be more rational than conventional Soxhlet with respect to DCM extraction. Total extraction yield was found to be highest for oregano (Origanum vulgare) with 34.4 g 100−1 g dry matter (DM). H2O-extracts gave the highest yields of the three solvents, with up to 25 g 100−1 g DM for purslane (Portulaca oleracea ssp. sativa) and mint (Mentha piperita). EtOH- and H2O-extracts were the most efficient extracts with respect to free radical scavenging capacity (ABTS (=2,2-azino-bis (3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid), and oregano, mint, hops (Humulus lupulus) and maral root-leaves (Leuzea carthamoides) were found to be the most efficient antioxidant sources. Hops (EtOH-extract) contained α- and β-acids, xanthohumols, chlorogenic acid and the hitherto unreported 3-O-glucosides of kaempferol and quercetin. Maral root-leaves contained among other compounds hexosides of the 6-hydroxy- and 6-methoxy-kaempferol and -quercetin, whereas roseroot (Rosea rhodiola) revealed contents of rosavin, rhodiosin and rhodionin. Sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua) contained chlorogenic acid and several derivatives thereof, scopoletin and poly-methylated flavones (eupatin, casticin, chrysoplenetin). Antimicrobial potential of different plant extracts was demonstrated against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria using the indicator organisms Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli, and the Atlantic salmon bacterial pathogens Moritella viscosa, Tenacibaculum finnmarkense and Aliivibrio wodanis. DCM extracts possessed the highest activities. Data demonstrate the potential ability of herb extracts as natural antimicrobials. However, future safety studies should be performed to elucidate any compromising effect on fish health.