Automatic bleeding based on machine vision and robot technology: Norway is now operating the first salmon slaughter line in the world to use such techniques. The innovation makes for more rational operation, says the system's pilot operator.
The bleeder robot forms part of an automated salmon slaughter line. The research and industry partners behind the technology say that it also guarantees the welfare of the fish and improve the quality of the end-product.
Supply company SeaSide AS in the little town of Stranda in Western Norway is on the point of marketing the new product.
"The machine vision and robot system determine the point of incision based on the size of the fish. Identifying the correct point to cut ensures that the salmon is efficiently bled, which is important both for the quality of the flesh and for the welfare of the fish," says managing director Frode Kjølås.
Based on three-way collaboration
The automated slaughter line is the result of a three-way collaboration that brought together equipment manufacturer SeaSide, automation experts at SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture in Trondheim, and Slakteriet AS of Florø, one of Norway's biggest fish slaughter companies.
"The result is a system that will enable slaughterers to rationalise their operations and reduce the manpower needed in their production lines," says Kjølås.
Pilot version in operation
Slakteriet AS inaugurated a pilot version of the new system in its production line recently. Managing director Ole Johan Eilertsen can confirm that all went well, and that the new line offers more rational operation.
"Until now, we have needed four operators in the bleeding line, but now we can manage with only one," he says.
Recently, the company was visited by Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, the Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs. Eilertsen took advantage of the occasion to tell the Minister about the new line, citing it as an example of the ability of his industry to innovate.
One-way sluice and electrical anaesthesia
The first unit in the automated line is a one-way sluice, which has been developed by Melbu Systems. This ensures that the fish swim the right way round into the next link in the system, an electrical anaesthetia system in which the salmon meet the electrodes head-first.
"Both the one-way sluice and the electric anaesthetia system are essential components of the automated bleeding system. The sluice because it provides a regular flow of fish, and the anaesthesia system because it is so efficient that all the fish lie peacefully throughout the process,'' says SeaSide director Kjølås.
The automated production line was developed as part of a user-guided innovation project financed by the Research Council of Norway.
Image processing and robot technology
Project manager Stein Ove Østvik in SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture leads a group that has specialised in automated systems that combine image processing with robot technology.
"The automated line ensures that a continuous stream of fish enters the automated bleeder, which means that the fish don't pile up ahead of the bleeding stage, as often happens with manual bleeding. This improves both end-product quality and the welfare of the fish," he says.
Østvik's colleague Morten Bondø, who has been responsible for the image-processing component of the project, says that the system is flexible enough to cover the whole range of sizes of fish that pass through a slaughter-house, and that it can also be adapted to a bleeding line for other species of fish, such as trout.
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