January 29, 2014      

?The fish processing industry in Norway will soon be a thing of the past if the trimming process isn?t automated to make it efficient and profitable. That is why this robot is so important.?
?Marit Aursand, research manager,
Sintef Fisheries and Aquaculture

Automated filleting

NORDEN:?APRICOT (Automatic Pin bone Removal In COd and WhiTefish) has developed and tested a fully automatic system for real-time detection and removal of pin bones in fresh and super-chilled white fish, with cod as its primary focus.

Presently, pin bones are cut and removed manually by workers, which is a difficult and repetitive task that requires substantial practice. Automation of this process is expected to result in increased material yield, improved consistency in processing and increased efficiency.

Unlike farmed salmon, which are similar in size and shape and therefore suitable for automated machine filleting, the variability of wild-caught white fish such as cod has kept filleting of these fish a manual affair.

As well as the high cost, manual filleting also results in three to seven percent of the most valuable part of the fish being cut away unnecessarily.

The APRICOT project has now developed a new robot that automates the process by using x-ray technology to locate the pin-bones in the fish and then quickly and precisely trim them away using water-jets.

whitefish filleting robot

A prototype filleting machine has been built and is ready for testing. If it works as its developers hope, it could be filleting fish this (2014).

Today, wild-caught fish are filleted manually. High labor costs have resulted in Norway losing the competition for processing to Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia. In the last 40 years,
Norwegian whitefish processing plants have decreased from one hundred to ten.

Not only does the machine automate the time-consuming filleting process and guarantee boneless fillets, it also results in much less waste than manual filleting, according to Marel, an
Icelandic seafood company that worked on the APRICOT project.

Rather than taking jobs away from humans, Thomas Farstad, CEO of Norway Seafoods says the technology actually creates new knowledge-based jobs while keeping at least some fish processing jobs in Scandinavia.

Today Norway is the world?s second largest exporter of fish; every day an average of 32M meals of Norwegian seafood are consumed, according to Sintef.

See also: Fish Facts: Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs (PDF download above).

Norwegian Fishing Industry

Norway?s long coastline and seas provide it with catches of between 2.5M and 3M tons of fish per year. There is little potential for increasing catches in the short term. There are about 10,000 registered fishing vessels in Norway, of which 1,000 are in year-round operation.

About 800 facilities are engaged in catch-based aquaculture and the reception and processing of wild fish.Norway is Europe?s largest supplier of fish and fish products. In the course of the last 10 years, the landed export value has doubled to over $4.8B (NOK 30B).

Ninety-five per cent of what is produced is exported, in the form of over 2 000 different products, to around 150 countries. The industry employs about 30,000 people, of whom 14,000 work in fishing, 6,000 in fish farming, and 10,000 in processing.

There are about 800 reception and processing facilities, and about 500 certified exporters, who represent the sales side of the industry.About 600,000 tons of farmed fish and shellfish are produced annually in Norway, and production is increasing. Production is carried on along the whole of Norway?s coast.

About 1,300 concessions have been issued for fish farming, and about 800 of these are for farming salmon and trout. There are around 100 slaughter/packing facilities, and a significant feed industry has been developed. New farmed species are constantly being introduced to commercial production.

Norway is a world leader in farmed species like Atlantic cod, Atlantic halibut and spotted wolf-fish.