With a hyperspectral camera, the quality of round fish can be assessed without cutting it open. Photo: © Hyspex/Norsk Elektro Optikk

Project Year 2019

Revolutionary new technolog

 Seafood industry  

New technology using light for quality analyses of fish can revolutionize the fishing industry, and will be commercially available in 2020.

“For the first time ever, we are able to provide an objective measurement of good quality already when whitefish is delivered on shore and to the processing plants”, says Karsten Heia, senior scientist at Nofima.

By using high throughput light and imaging technologies, the fish can also be automatically sorted according to species upon delivery.

For 16 years, Karsten Heia has worked with the technology company Norsk Elektro Optikk (NEO) to develop a hyperspectral camera for food use. Since 2018, Nofima and NEO have collaborated with companies Maritech, Lerøy Norway Seafoods, and Havfisk to develop a commercial machine able to perform this kind of quality measurement of whole fish. Maritech is the largest global software provider to the seafood industry and is the lead industry partner that will commercialize the system in 2020. The industrial trials were carried out at Lerøy’s fish processing plant in Båtsfjord, Norway.

Extreme Technology

“It is extreme technology that has been produced and tested to further develop the Norwegian fisheries industry”, says Heidi Nilsen, Head of Research at Nofima’s Seafood Industry Department.

A good quality exsanguinated (bled out) fish has white and delicate flesh. A fish that was not bled or was damaged during catch will have blood discharge, blood stains and blood clots in the muscle. The fish are illuminated on the production line and blood content in the fish muscle is assessed from the light signal reflected back to the sensor.

“The machine has been tested, and the technology works. We are able to analyse the data continuously as soon as it is generated, and the machine is integrated with the gradient – the sorting machine – on the production line. We are ready to put it into production”, affirms Karsten Heia.

“Norway has a strong global position when it comes to research into food and fish and the development of hyperspectral cameras. And we are very proud that NEO and Nofima have now developed something that works in the industry”, says Trond Løke, Manager of HySpex, the hyperspectral department at NEO.

Can deliver precisely what is offered

During 2020, the quality measurement machine will also be tested on one of Havfisk’s trawlers. Performing measurements on live fish is expected to follow.

“The technique implies several advantages to the seafood industry. Today they do not know what quality they can offer, and it is based on their discretion, whereas after quality measurement they will know that they can deliver precisely what is offered”, says Karsten Heia.

According to the researcher, another advantage of this kind of measurement is that before production commences you know how much is available for high-quality products, such as loins and fillets, how much can be sent in bulk to be used in, for example, fish mince, or what is best suited for production of salted fish.

The entire value chain will benefit from this

The fishing fleet, which can install the system on its production line, will be able to gain much greater control of its own products.

“The sea fishing fleet delivers a lot of frozen raw material which may not enter the market for four or five months. By measuring and documenting the quality of all fish brought on board, they are able to sort according to quality and avoid surprises and price reductions later on”, says Heia.

All the data from the measurements are collected and systematized, and workers at production facilities and the trawler fleet can learn more about the causes of quality variations. This means the entire value chain can benefit from this.

“The challenge has been to make measurement and analysis simple enough so that it will be appropriately priced to be able to mass produce without compromising on system quality. This is what we have now achieved”, says Heia.

Norsk Elektro Optikk/HySpex, Maritech, Lerøy Norway Seafoods, and Havfisk

FHF – Norwegian Seafood Research Fund and participating companies.

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