Wspólnotowy Serwis Informacyjny Badan i Rozwoju - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - SAFETRACKFOOD (Development of a novel Industrial Fish Drying and Maturing Process to secure Seafood Safety, Traceability, and Quality)

Executive Summary:
The European Union is by far the world’s biggest importer of fish, seafood and aquaculture products while importing 6.2 million tonnes worth €17.3 billion and exporting only 2.3 million tonnes worth €3.5 billion a year. This negative yearly trading balance of 3.9 million tonnes is worth €13.7 billion. Analysis of trends in the seafood industry shows new business opportunities in new innovative value added products in terms of convenience and health. Ready-to cook or ready-to-eat products, coated products and other value-added items represent a fast-growing industry. Market trends show that consumers increasingly favour more “exotic seafood” which has opened up new market opportunities for refined seafood products that involves value added food processing such as drying, curing or smoking. The European stockfish industry – producing matured and dried gutted whole fish from lean fish, mainly cod – is facing several problems following the market trends and being competitive. Today the stockfish production is still performed only outdoors and is therefore exposed to unfavourable weather and environmental conditions.
The stockfish is produced from wild-caught cod, the spring spawning cod, caught during a short and intensive fishing period from February to March in Lofoten, Northern Norway, and dried until June on the wooden racks outdoors. During the outdoor production of stockfish, a significant proportion of stockfish product may get downgraded or lost. In particular, the extent of the quality failure has increased over the years, and can reach over 40%, even up to 70%, downgrading or loss of the stockfish production. The stockfish product quality varies greatly with changing weather conditions. Rising temperatures support the risk of ‘fast-drying’ and the inhibition of the maturing process as bacteria involved in the maturing step contributing to the extraordinary taste of this refined seafood product, will not be active in dry conditions. In contrast, intense rain inhibits the drying process and increases the risk of bacterial spoilage or growth of pathogenic bacteria and contributes to the quality fault named “mucoso”, which is a degradation of fish tissue. Other quality issues related to outdoor production are freezing damage of the fish tissue, oxidation/rancidity and growth of maggots from fly eggs deposited in the neck region of the fish. In addition, during outdoor drying, stockfish is also prone to contamination with parasites and bacteria from rats, seagulls and other species.
The SafeTrackFood project established an indoor process for maturing and drying of stockfish by developing an advanced drying unit equipped with an automated bioprocess control system that monitors and controls the maturing and drying processes. The indoor production will be independent of weather conditions and climate change, catch seasons or cross-contamination and reduces the stockfish production time by a factor of 4 – from 4 months down to 30 days – by accelerating the maturing and drying process through optimising the process parameters. Also the production will enable a greater degree of traceability and food safety through increasing hygiene during production. In order to achieve these goals, the SafeTrackFood prototype drying unit has been developed, subcomponents integrated and optimised, and the production process as well as the product validated. Five indoor drying trials have been conducted with the SafeTrackFood prototype dryer and the processing time of 30 days to reach the required water content of final product has been achieved.

Project Context and Objectives:
The SafeTrackFood project aimed at developing an innovative indoor process line for the maturing and drying of stockfish with the following key objectives: 1) to improve and maintain product quality; 2) to increase the availability and quantity of stockfish; 3) to be price competitive; 4) to offer new convenience seafood product to meet market trends.
All objectives achieved within the SafeTrackFood project are:
• Development of “Fish Drying Footprint” by investigating optimal maturation and drying conditions and characteristics for pure and excellent quality stockfish;
• Development of “Bacterial Odour Footprint” by investigating bacteria composition and volatile organic compounds during stockfish maturation/drying processes;
• Development of HACCP guideline by investigating product and production requirements, standards, legal obligations, EC regulations on food safety;
• Design and build a prototype drying unit;
• Implementation the required process parameters to the prototype drying unit;
• Carrying out the preliminary fish maturation/drying testing and process optimisation;
• Development of prototype odour sensing system, part of the quality control system;
• Development of prototype optical inspection system, part of the quality control system;
• Development of prototype weighing station, part of the quality control system;
• Quality control system interfacing and integration to the prototype drying unit;
• Development of prototype SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data acquisition) system to monitor and control the process and the corresponding product quality;
• Development of data acquisition and storage system;
• Development of process control and automation equipment;
• Development of Interim plan for Dissemination and Use of the foreground and accession to the background;
• Creation of project website;
• Production of set of marketing materials, including press release, newsletter, social media pages, project logo.
• Integration of the systems developed in WPs 2-4 and testing of the prototype's functionality, i.e., ability to produce dried and mature, headed and gutted fish (of about 3 kg) within 4 weeks, and to verify technical properties, performance and economic viability of the overall solution and the quality of the produced SafeTrackFood product for its use in supermarket ready-to-cook seafood products;
• To demonstrate the developed and optimised SafeTrackFood production line to the SME partners and to validate the process parameters of the developed prototype and the quality of end products by the SME partners;
• Formulate/compile project results into a protectable form including patents;
• Develop an exploitation strategy, protection of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) arising from the technological developments in the project;
• Overall project management and coordination;
• Management of project external relations;
• To ensure that all knowledge is created, managed and disseminated in a coordinated and coherent manner, along legal aspects.

Project Results:
The final results of the SafeTrackFood project have been:

• Scientific knowledge platform – drying and maturing process requirements and specifications
• Air drying system and corresponding design and modulation
• Miniaturised odour / gas sensing system and design
• Optical inspection and design
• Moisture content measurement station and design
• SCADA system and tracking system and corresponding algorithms
• Prototype of the SafeTrackFood system and corresponding design with process requirements and specifications

During the first reporting period, the product specifications, requirements, standards and legal obligations with regard to stockfish production were investigated. The results have been used to identify the product and production requirements for stockfish in relation to existing standards and legal obligations on food safety and traceability and to establish stockfish production HACCCP guideline for food safety and hygiene.
During the second reporting period the final product quality of the SafeTrackFood stockfish has been validated with regard to various quality parameters such as final water content, bacteria counts, functional properties (beating, rehydration, cooking) and sensory quality of cooked recipes. During the indoor trials conducted, gross weights of fresh cod varied from 103-352 kg with a net weight of final product of 25-88 kg corresponding to an average water loss of 75 % and final water content of 14-18 %, which is in agreement with the quality specifications of the Norwegian Industry Standard for Stockfish. The microbiological quality of both indoor and outdoor final dried stockfish product has been investigated. Results have shown that the bacterial counts of indoor dried stockfish are very low (<log 4 CFU) and there is no occurrence of pathogenic bacteria. After rehydration, the indoor dried stockfish has significantly lower bacteria numbers compared to the traditional outdoor dried stockfish. The results of the final cooked Baccalà alla Vicentina style dish prepared from the indoor dried stockfish have shown that heat treatment has a significant effect on the total bacteria counts, reducing the total bacteria number to less than log3 CFU. This shows that the cooking treatment of the fish makes the fish safe to eat and complies with general microbiological food safety regulations.
The Afos AT1-1000 Dryer was developed for fast indoor drying of fish where the matured fish will rapidly be dried during the last days of the whole process. However, it is not developed for the preceding fish maturation process control. In order to monitor the critical initial maturation stage and add the required capabilities to the drying unit, several modifications, both in hardware and software, have been thereafter performed. A set of new additional sensors have been developed to meet the required functionalities in the scope of this project. The quality control station enables the determination daily/weekly of the volatile organic compounds (VOC)/odour profile in form of emitted key gases quantitatively and qualitatively, the dehydration rate/weight and the fish skin colour. The prototype drying unit is equipped with an automated process control system based on Siemens S7 PLC. The control system, comprising of software control and human interface elements, has been developed so that it enables running control protocols of the prototype drying unit and to have connectivity possibilities to the internet, and other network, in order to collect and analyse the stockfish maturation and drying process data. The prototype SCADA system has been developed to acquire/store the data and control the stockfish maturation/drying process and to enhance traceability based on product quality and safety.
On 22nd April 2015, the project consortium participated in an event at Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, where they showed a demo video and served exhibitors samples to taste and fish to inspect.
A patent search has been carried out to map the landscape of existing patents associated with stockfish and drying processes. The results showed that there is no existing patent in which these process conditions that have been developed in the SafeTrackFood project would be protected. Consequently, a patent application was made in order to protect the results generated within the SafeTrackFood project.
The final drying trail (No. V) starting at 4th May 2015 with 300 kg gross weight fresh Lofoten skrei was finished by 4th June. Accordingly, total process time was 31 days. For the first time, no technical problems were encountered during the drying trial, due to the repair and upgrading of the drying system recently.

Potential Impact:
The SafeTrackFood project allowed the indoor stockfish production time to be reduced by a factor of 4 – from 4 months down to 30 days – by accelerating the maturing and drying process through optimising the process parameters. The automated bioprocess control system enabled the monitoring and control of the maturing and drying processes and achieved the stockfish product standard with high reliability and minimal batch differences. The quality and safety control system enabled the documentation of product safety and increased the traceability to obtain a quality certificate and to meet food safety regulations.
The indoor production will enable an all-year around stockfish production by using farmed cod or other round fish species originating from wild catches or fish farms, which increase and secure profit through higher product quality and minimal production losses. Prime quality stockfish has an average sales price of €21 per kg, while degraded quality can cause a reduction in price down to €10 per kg. Production losses are minimised from previously up to 40 % in a normal season, down to 3 %. The indoor production will be independent of weather conditions and climate change, catch seasons or cross-contamination. This will allow the production of stockfish from other fish species all around the world and the expansion of business across Europe, North-America, Australia and Africa, especially in the countries where stockfish is known and eaten today.
In addition, the aim of the project has been to improve the competitiveness of the SME participants by creating a strong supply chain for the SafeTrackFood process technology in the seafood industry. Overall, imported seafood amounts to almost €15 Bn in the EU, with the dominant share coming from American and Asian countries. Through the project, SME partners are able to offer an innovative process technology and be more included in the new knowledge based economy through IPR ownership and generation of revenue from licensing of knowledge, rather than just trading of products. SMEs will also obtain the opportunity to increase the perceived value to their customers as strategic partners with innovative product development capabilities with the aim of finding further ways of adding value to other products. The main benefits of the four participating SME partners in the SafeTrackFood project are:

• Athena will exploit the SafeTrackFood process and technology and therefore increase the stockfish production, based on farmed cod, and increase their market share by offering a safe and traceable dry fish product suitable for the production of supermarket ready-to-cook soaked seafood product for the European and worldwide markets.
• AFOS will gain from additional sales opportunities for drying units which can be modified with the SafeTrackFood technology, and for commissioning and maintaining the cabinets.
• EMS will become the preferred supplier for gas sensor(s) and control system interface(s) that ensure integration of those sensors into the full process control system.
• Il Ceppo will gain a new product line that they can offer to their customers and get market representation rights of the developed process. New product represents an increase of product quality in terms of food safety and extends self-life. This will expand Il Ceppo´s business by producing ready-to-cook (ready soaked) seafood products through their shop and restaurant in the Italian Market.

List of Websites:

Sepapaja 6
Ülemiste City Tallinn
11415 Estonia
+372 610 1230
Contact Person: Yenal Turan

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