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Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way
WEB MAGAZINE - September 2018

Nordic solution could open up a new market for the seafood industry

“It’s extremely important to make the industry understand that process water is not waste,” says Professor in Food Science, Ingrid Undeland.

Undeland is a researcher at Chalmers University of Technology, and her work primarily focuses on optimising the use of marine raw materials and by-products. She has led a Nordic team of industrial actors and scientists that is exploring ways in which values in aqueous seafood side-streams can reach markets instead of sewage.

The project has measured the amounts of proteins and lipids, as well as their building blocks amino acids and fatty acids, in process waters from the shrimp, herring and mussel industries. They conclude that there is a large, untapped potential for the seafood industry to develop new value streams.

“This has been done in other industries. In the dairy industry, the protein in the wastewater from cheese production has opened up a rapidly expanding market of whey protein. The same can happen in the seafood processing industry,” Undeland explains.

New food-grade technology can make it happen

The team has also tested technologies that collect biomolecules like proteins and lipids in process water, allowing them to be concentrated and further de-watered. Undeland explains that the flotation technology, in which the biomolecules are concentrated, is a relatively simple technology that many seafood producers have already installed, and which can be quickly implemented.

However, the flocculation technology, the process that clumps the proteins dissolved in the water, is more challenging. Traditional flocculants used in water purification to reduce BOD and COD are non-food-grade chemicals, which has excluded further use of the separated biomass in food and feed products due to health and safety regulations.

“We have tested several food-grade flocculants that allow us to utilise the protein-enriched biomass for consumption. The next step is to find cheap enough solutions that will make it a viable option for the industry,” says Undeland.

A spin-off project, focusing only on the herring process waters, has already started, and Undeland says that she also sees great potential for further development in the shrimp industry.

Why did you want to carry out this project on a Nordic level?

“It made sense to do this on a Nordic level. There are certain competencies that can only be found in the individual countries. The project would not have been this successful without the Nordic cooperation,” says Undeland.

Skretting ARC from Norway, Bio-Aqua A/S and DTU Food from Denmark, Fisk i dag AB, Räkor & Laxgrossisten AB and the University of Gothenburg from Sweden have all participated in the project funded and coordinated by Nordic Innovation.

Steps towards a circular economy

The NoVAqua project presents a solution that will increase the environmental and economic sustainability of seafood producers across the Nordic countries.

“At the core of this project lies a circular approach – to bring side-streams that are on their way out of the food chain back into this chain. In the past, a holistic utilisation of food raw materials was taken for granted, but it has not been fully applied in industrial production, resulting in large amounts of food by-products. We hope that NoVAqua will reintroduce the holistic and circular way of thinking,” explains Undeland.

How long do you think it will take for this technology to be scaled-up?

“This project has been pioneering, and we’ve seen a lot of interest both from researchers and industry. There are a couple of businesses that are very interested in implementing our technology, and since they have some of the necessary equipment already in place, I think we will see it being used more frequently within 3-5 years,” predicts Undeland.


Photo: Signelements