The Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Nofima) developed a system that automatically detects unwanted elements in fish fillets.
Agnar Sivertsen of Nofima, said his newly developed equipment, targeted at cod fillets, is the first to be able to automatically identify the presence of nematodes in the fish on the processing line reliably and at high speeds. Introduction of the system could boost line efficiency and improve detection of the tiny parasites, he added.
Nematodes in fish fillets are perceived as an aesthetic problem by producers and consumers. While reports of human infection by eating the organism in raw fish are rare, their presence reduces the product's market value.
At present, spotting nematodes is carried out manually during the trimming and inspection of cod fillets. Detecting and removing the organisms also pushes up production costs. Following the scientist from the Norwegian research institute, this is currently regarded as the most time-consuming and expensive aspect of fillet production in Norway, accounting for nearly 50% of the production cost.
The novel system uses hyperspectral technology to identify nematodes at belt-speeds of 40cm per second - the typical production line rate. Inspection and trimming is one of the few tasks done manually in the Norwegian processing sector and often creates a bottleneck in production.
Nematodes are regarded as the most important element in a fillet to detect, but also the most difficult. Previous research projects failed to match production speeds and had therefore never been incorporated into industrial lines, said Nofima. Other functional limitations included their identifying elements such as fish scales, bone and connective tissue as nematodes and a failure to detect the parasites deep in the fillet.
The researcher said his system has solved these problems, is able to transilluminate the cod fillet - skin on or skin off - and can automatically detect nematodes and in which part of the fillet they are located.
The advance could help the Norwegian fish processing industry compete with non-European rivals by boosting efficiency and cutting costs. Higher overheads in Norway, such as elevated labour costs, means that an increasing amount of Norwegian catches are exported for processing. They are then sold back into Europe, often at significantly lower prices, than their Norwegian competitors.
Source: The Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research