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Innovative technology based on the integration of natural substances in ice to improve animal welfare and extend shelf-life of farmed fish

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ICE2LAST (Innovative technology based on the integration of natural substances in ice to improve animal welfare and extend shelf-life of farmed fish)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2019-03-31

In Europe, almost one in three fishes gets spoiled before reaching the plate. The European fish sector has to face important challenges to become competitive and reduce fish losses by spoilage. Furthermore, since traditional slaughtering processes expose fish to substantial suffering over excessive periods of time, a pre-stunning phase is recommended, to rapidly cause loss of consciousness and sensibility without pain. However, most of the slaughtering procedures used nowadays do not involve any stunning phase. This results in reduced fish flesh quality and shorter shelf-life of fresh fish. Fish welfare is an important issue for the European Union, which invests, mainly through public funding, research projects for enhancing the shelf-life of fresh fish without altering its organoleptic properties.

In this context, Cubiplaya has developed ICE2LAST, a process innovation for the European fish sector that results in improved animal welfare, longer fresh fish shelf-life and greater fish flesh quality. ICE2LAST is a leading technological process for fish production based on the activity of natural substances included into the ice used at slaughtering and all along the fish production chain. These natural substances are essential oils with sedative and antimicrobial properties.

In 2018, Cubiplaya received the approval by the European Commission of the project ICE2LAST under Horizon 2020 SME INSTRUMENTS phase II.

Throughout these 12 months of Project, the technical achievements have been successfully attained. The ICE2LAST formulation for seabass, salmon and trout stunning and preserving has been developed and successfully adapted to the industry’s needs. Additionally, the ICE2LAST ice-manufacturing machinery has been designed, constructed, installed and validated, able to produce ice for the production chain already incorporating the formulation, to achieve a production of 10 tons of ice with the ICE2LAST formula/24 hours. Furthermore, ICE2LAST has also been able to be adapted into the most common equipment used by the Fish Industry, which avoids the client the need to purchase a new ice machine.

Now, experiences of ICE2LAST will be conducted in three real industrial environments. We will continue to work on the communication and commercial internationalisation of our innovation, and thanks to this project, Europe will take a leap forward and become leader in the Fish Sector, avoiding fish spoilage and losses while assuring Fish welfare.
The work done was divided into 7 work packages:

WP1.- Determination of the minimal effective dose of ICE2LAST
Experiments have been carried out on different fish species (seabass, salmon, trout) to determine the minimal effective dose of ICE2LAST stunning and ICE2LAST preserving.

WP2.- Ice-manufacturing validation
The design of an ad-hoc ice machine unit for this Project has been realised, meeting the production capacity, essential oil dosage system and additive dissolving for nanocapsulation requirements. Also, the ICE2LAST production in most common ice-machines used by the fishing industry has been validated.

WP3.- Validation of ICE2LAST technology and user-manual elaboration
All the information extracted from WP1 and WP2 has served to design a versatile and effective ICE2LAST formula valid for the different types of fish industry stakeholders. ICE2LAST is being tested under real-production conditions in order to receive feedback from those who will be the users of ICE2LAST. Three end-user trials are currently being performed. All the information outcome will be gathered in order to prepare the ICE2LAST user guides and/or training manuals.

WP4.- Regulatory tasks and IPR management
The application for the evaluation of ICE2LAST stunning and ICE2LAST preserving as food ingredients is being carried out. The ICE2LAST stunning patent has been extended as a PCT and an application has been filed for a European Patent. The ICE2LAST preserving patent has been published as a Spanish Patent.

WP5.- Commercialisation and Communication
During the first year of the project execution, some important ICE2LAST target clients have been contacted, we have organized meetings with key stakeholders from the aquaculture sector and with representatives from large retailers, and have now a better understanding on the needs and limitation of our future clients. As for the dissemination and communication activities developed, we have attended to several international conferences; and we will continue to pursue an intensive communication campaign once the technical industrial trials have been successfully validated.

WP6.- Project management and coordination
Throughout the development of the ICE2LAST project, supervision and management are necessary to achieve the proposed goals and overcome possible obstacles and bottlenecks foreseen or unforeseen. Key factors and technical stages in Phase 2 development are being constantly supervised. The coaching sessions served to acquire tools to study potential markets from a different perspective, create business strategies, and mitigate the weaknesses of the project.

WP7.- Ethics requirements
ETHICAL COMMITTEE’S APPROVAL. No research was started without obtaining the approval of the competent authority (Autonomous Community of the Region of Murcia), which previously requires the approval of the Ethical Committee of Animal Experimentation of the University of Murcia (CEEA). Dr. Alfonsa Ayala, head of the research group responsible for the experiments and member of the Enabled Body (OH) has requested and obtained the approval from the Ethical Committee CEEA.
ICE2LAST addresses two issues of interest to the EU: the improvement of fish welfare (in fish farms and fishing vessels) and the extension of fish shelf-life, for which suitable market solutions have not yet been found. We are entering a new and emerging market with high potential (e.g. the global market for aquaculture is expected to reach 203,000 M€ by 2020). We are well-positioned to become a reference in European fishing industry. As expected, the first year of the project focused on technical performance of ICE2LAST, carried out during Work Packages 1 (determination of the minimal effective dose of ICE2LAST) and 2 (validate the ICE2LAST production in most common ice-machines used by the fishing industry). However, during the first period some important ICE2LAST target clients have been contacted, which is key for the project. Large wholesalers have the potential of contributing to a rapid impact and expansion of ICE2LAST.

Meetings have been held with an important retailer in Spain which has a very important push effect on its suppliers, since it can “recommend” to its fish suppliers to adopt our anaesthesia technology (the ICE2LAST stunning additive in ice). Also, ICE2LAST has raised great interest for companies including fresh fish exposed on ice in their supermarkets. All of these fish shops have an ice-making machine, whose design is fully compatible with the use of the ICE2LAST preserving additive, with slight modifications. In view of all this, these facts represent a highly interesting business opportunity for us; and what’s more, our pricing strategy has been validated by our potential clients. Therefore, it has been proven that the costs of these ICE2LAST additives are acceptable by the industry, and we foresee that this project will contribute to a global socio-economic and societal impact.
ICE2LAST Project