The top processing and equipment stories of 2018
Innovation loomed large for the seafood industry in 2018, in terms of new products as well as the machines and facilities responsible for producing and distributing them.
In aquaculture circles, 2018 could be characterized as the year of the land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS). Several companies in Maine were seen cashing in on the trend in 2018, with Norway-based Nordic Aquafarms announcing in January its plans to build a salmon RAS facility in Belfast, Maine, and Whole Oceans proposing its own salmon RAS endeavor for Bucksport, Maine in February.
But RAS wasn’t just a stateside phenomenon this year. In Japan, aquaculture experts and companies spent 2018 experimenting with denitrification technologies as a means to boost operations. Taiyousuiken Inc., a maker of water treatment systems essential to recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), saw increased demand for its biofilm carrier, a “high-speed nitrification carrier Ocean Cleaner No. 3 (OCNO 3)” made of polypropylene foam.
Meanwhile, FRD Japan, Co., headquartered in Saitama City, announced it would be scaling up from a small hatchery facility for rearing trout in land-based tanks to a larger pilot plant in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo, with a target output of 30 metric tons (MT) per year. The firm set a goal to complete a commercial plant in Chiba capable of producing 1,500 MT of sushi-ready salmon slices by 2020, using ordinary tap water throughout its systems.
Technological development was also underway for North America’s lobster industry this year as well, with companies like Ashored Innovations, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, focusing on developing a reliable, submersible buoy that goes down with the lobster trawl, is geo-trackable, and retrieved via acoustic release technology.
“We’re not reinventing the lobster trap. It’s the buoys we are redesigning,” Ashored CEO Aaron Stevenson told SeafoodSource in August.
Down in Maine’s lobstering sector, Ready Seafood announced plans to build a new processing facility in the southern area of the state for 2019, in response to a shortage of plants of that variety in the region. The new facility will include 40 acres in Saco, Maine. John and Brendan Ready, the co-owners of the business, said the facility’s lobster processing and holding capabilities will rival the largest existing facilities in the state, which has about a half dozen lobster processors.
"These lobsters are already going across the border to Canada. Why aren't they being processed here?" Brendan Ready said, according to the AP, in March. "Because you need infrastructure."
Processing facilities were also being constructed by the likes of Cermaq, which opened a new plant in Steigen, Norway in September, and PT Bali Seafood International (BSI) in Santong, Sumbawa, Indonesia in February. Pacific Seafood also re-opened its Warrenton, Oregon-based dockside processing plant in a watershed moment for the supplier and the coastal fishing community behind a large part of the facility's operations. The building had previously been destroyed in a 2013 fire.
Of course, the production of state-of-the-art seafood packaging was in high gear in 2018. Modern packaging trends saw seafood companies keeping a pulse on consumer interests and incorporating what they discovered in sleek designs.
“The modern consumer is looking for packaging that is easy to use (easy open/close, re-sealable, portionable/individually-wrapped), effective (leak-proof, easy to handle), informative (nutrition facts, cooking instructions), and sustainable (recyclable, reusable, extends shelf life/reduces waste). Companies that combine these features with unique, eye-catching packaging will continue to win in a competitive retail environment,” said Lee Coffey, the product manager for global seafood packing company Bemis North America, in March.
Also in March, packaging innovator and developer Maxwell Chase announced a first-of-its-kind seafood packaging line, optimized to significantly extend shelf-life of both fresh and frozen seafood products, at this year’s Seafood Expo North America event. The company’s SeaWell Seafood Trays, which were patent-pending this year, feature integrated absorbent technology incorporated into wells at the bottom of trays to absorb excess fluids, a feature that “lessens potential damage to seafood products,” according to the company, which is owned by CSP Technologies, Inc.