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High hopes for new Nordic whitefish processing machine

  • Published 14/01/2014
The APRICOT fishbone remover may make a big difference for the Nordic whitefish processing industry. The machine is one of the outcomes of the Nordic Marine Innovation Programme.


The major bulk of fish from Nordic countries is filleted and packaged abroad, and make the Nordic countries fall behind in the whitefish industry. The APRICOT project funded by Nordic Innovation has however spawn a new machine that can change this.


Previous attempts to make equipment that automatically cuts the pin-bones out of white fish have not been successful, partly because white fish varies much in size and weight as opposed to farmed salmon.


– The machine we have developed locates the pin-bones with x-ray The machine we have developed locates the pin-bones with x-ray technology, using water-jet to trim away the bones with great precision and speed. technology, using water-jet to trim away the bones with great precision and speed. The fish is guaranteed boneless with significantly less waste than manual filleting, says Kristjan Halvardsson in the Icelandic company Marel.


Researchers from Sintef and Marel have collaborated with Faroe Origin and Norway Seafoods from the fish industry to develop the machine.


A breakthrough
– This robot could be a breakthrough for the whitefish industry in the Nordic countries, because we can achieve a much needed competitive advantage to low-cost countries, says Kristjan Halvardsson.


Wild-caught fish is today 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 100 to ten.


– You could think that robots replacing hands leads to fewer jobs, but the alternative is no jobs at all. Technology creates new knowledge-based jobs as well, says CEO Thomas Farstad in Norway Seafoods.


Today Norway exports around 80 percent of its fish with minimal processing.


– Fish caught in the North Sea can visit two other countries for trimming and packaging before it returns to Scandinavia. The new invention makes it possible to send fresh fish directly from our processing plants to shops and fish suppliers, says Farstad.


From loss to profit
A prototype of the new filleting machine is ready for testing. If it works as expected the invention can be used as early as next year.


Research manager Marit Aursand in Sintef Fisheries and Aquaculture has previously worked with developing a filleting machine for white fish. It is her colleagues at Sintef ICT who is working on the sequel.


–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. We can get a greater selection of fresh fish of higher quality, while the industry remains in Norway, says Aursand.


It has been especially difficult for the Nordic seafood industry to profit from white fish such as cod.


– White fish has pin-bones that are complicated and time-consuming to remove. Three to seven percent of the fish is unnecessarily cut away in the process. Even then, you are not guaranteed a bone free fillet, says Kristjan Halvardsson in Marel.


Another benefit of performing the processing routines is the fish waste because this raw material can be used to create other products.



  • The project behind the filleting machine is called APRICOT (automatic pin-bone removal in cod and whitefish).
  • APRICOT is one of 15 projects in a Nordic Marine Innovation Programme, established to bring the marine industry together across the borders in the Nordic countries. More information here.
  • The involved companies in this project are Sintef, Norway Seafoods, Marel and Faroe Origin.
  • Today Norway is the world’s second largest export nation of fish, and every day an average of 32 million meals of Norwegian seafood is eaten daily, according to Sintef.