January 17, 2019

World Champions of the Pelagic Sector

Iceland’s recipe for success combines nurtured talent with hard work and innovation

Qualifying for a World Cup, the greatest of all football tournaments, is a big deal. Appearing in the competition-proper, whether in South Africa, Brazil or most recently Russia, is often the pinnacle of most players’ careers and a principal benchmark to assess any team.

It’s widely acknowledged that reaching the 2018 finals – the first time that it had – was an amazing accomplishment for Iceland. With a population of just 340,000 people, it was the smallest country to ever appear in a World Cup. Famously, it also doesn’t have a single professional football team. Nevertheless, Iceland’s strakarnir okkar (our boys) took the occasion fully in its stride.

Remarkable as it was, this particular soccer success story can’t be dismissed as a one-off. After all, two years previously the nation made a very successful appearance at the 2016 European Championships in France, reaching the quarter-final stage. Iceland has in fact put great effort into nurturing young talent to create a golden age for its football-obsessed natives.

Turnkey solution

Investment in people, ideas and innovation is also endemic to Icelandic industry, and particularly in its seafood sector. Unlike in football circles, when it comes to fish production, Iceland is a long-established European powerhouse, supplying huge quantities of markets’ favourite species. It’s also very much at the forefront of processing technology. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the turnkey solutions for the onshore processing of pelagic fish developed by Skaginn 3X.

Comprising amongst other things automated fluid ice delivery, computer visioning and precision automation to ensure efficient and gentle handling, the Skaginn 3X process maximises yield and product quality by keeping temperatures consistently low, minimising processing times and employing non-pressure freezing methods.

Because each system is customised to meet the unique and flexible needs of each processor, Skaginn 3X engineers and designers work in close collaboration to ensure that these expectations are met. Each is designed with automation, energy efficiency and low maintenance requirements in mind. They are also optimised for easy yet thorough cleaning to support the most demanding industry standards for hygiene

Typically, a complete system will incorporate the following processing flow:

1. A mechanical grader weighs and sorts products as they enter the facility

2. Fluid Ice System keeps products chilled at all buffering points

3. Products enter a QC-Vision Batcher for quality control and batch weighing

4. Batches are bagged, air is drawn out and optionally brine-injected

5. Automatic loading into an Automatic Freezer in tray or carton

6. Fully automated packing and palettising

Most of this equipment will be manufactured at Skaginn’s stainless steel workshop, regarded as one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in Europe.

Processing gains

Such a sophisticated system is at the heart of the world’s largest pelagic processing plant in Suduroy, in the Faroe Islands. Owned by Vardin Pelagic, the new plant was designed with an initial daily processing capacity of 1,300 tons, and has the potential of upgrading this to 1,700 tons per day. This investment is central to the seafood company’s goal to be a market leader in terms of quality and distribution for pelagic species for human consumption.

Also in the Faroes, a complete, full-automated system is in operation at Pelagos’s plant at Fuglafjørður. This highly-advanced facility, which was completed in 2014, is focused on delivering optimal quality pelagic fish from the North Atlantic. As well as through state-of-the-art technology, Pelagos highlights that this is achieved with rigorous control systems and gentle handling of the fish at all stages.

Skaginn 3X’s latest sorting and freezing processing systems were also recently incorporated into Eskja’s plant in Eskifjörður, eastern Iceland. This 700-square-meter plant, which was constructed in 2016, is now producing up to 900 tons of pelagic products per day. As with the previous examples, Eskja was motivated to make this investment to ensure that it could provide the highest quality products possible for human consumption.

Meanwhile, with at-sea processing also providing an essential source of pelagic products, Skaginn 3X is fitting out a new 80-meter state-of-the art trawler with patented technology for grading, packing, freezing and palletising the vessel’s catch.

Russian demand

Fishery company JSC Gidrostroy’s new factory on the remote island of Shikotan in Far East Russia, will also soon come on-stream, complete with cutting-edge technology that’s designed to grade, pack and freeze 900 tons of pelagics per day. At 9,000 square meters, this will be the largest and most automated pelagic fish processing plant in the region. It will create many new jobs while also streamlining processes and reducing waste. With the innovative freezing technology improving its products’ quality, Gidrostroy anticipates demand for its fish from mainland Russia and China will steadily increase.

This is not this region’s only investment. Skaginn 3X has also agreed to supply a state-of-the-art processing factory to Collective Farm Fishery by V.I. Lenin in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia Far East. Due to start operations at the end of 2019/start of 2020, it will be equipped with leading technology to grade, pack and freeze species such as Alaska Pollock, Pacific cod, wild salmon, squid and some pelagic species. Its advanced freezing technology will include automatic plate freezers for both fillets and whole fish. The system will also have the means to IQF-freeze of all of the company’s key products. In total, the facility has been designed to freeze more than 500 tons of fish per day. The opportunity to expand this capacity at a later date has also been factored in.

All of these contracts – some of the largest secured by Skaginn 3X to date – confirm the company’s position at the forefront of pelagic processing technology and innovation. Much like the Icelandic football team, it’s riding the crest of a wave.

Written by Bylgja Pálsdóttir & Einar Brandsson

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