Landmark order for Valka
From its origins in founder Helgi Hjálmarsson’s garage, Valka has grown steadily and is now set to expand further, boosted by a landmark order for its fillet machines that utilise X-ray technology to locate and extract bones.
“We’ve doubled the staff in the last six months, and up to now we have been in facilities that have been on the small side. But now we’re about to move into premises,” said Valka’s Ágúst Sigurðarson.
The key order, worth €20 million and which the company is certain is the largest ever order of its kind for high-tech processing equipment, was placed by fishing and processing group Samherji for its whitefish production at two locations in the north of Iceland. The Samherji processing plant in Akureyri is being upgraded, while a new plant is being built along the coast in Dalvík, and both will be fitted with Valka’s high-precision technology to ensure that fillets are fully boneless and precisely portioned.
‘We are taking things a step further with the equipment we will be delivering for Samherji. We can say that this is the third generation of Valka’s system, with even more automation. We are also supplying a new type of IQF grader as part of the package,’ he said.
‘We are also combining 3D technology with the X-ray analysis of each fillet, which makes it possible to cut in a curve around the bone - which delivers a better yield.’
He commented that the thinking is to take account of the overall volume of fish to be processed, looking beyond individual fillets and how they are processed and portioned. Instead, Valka is working from a new starting point to evaluate the potential of a volume of fish, matching it to the processing options available; IQF, fresh packs or other options.
As well as its shore-based systems, Valka has supplied a number of processing systems to factory vessels, with Norwegian trawlers Ramoen and Granit among the first to adopt this technology, and followed by Icelandic factory vessel Sólborg, which was delivered last summer.
‘Sólborg has a dual lane Valka system, and they have really made good use of it. They did their homework very carefully and prepared the market for what they were expecting to produce, working closely with their buyers to ensure they got things right. Since then, they have produced several hundred tonnes of finished products using the Valka system on board. They have really done well with this.’
Ágúst Sigurðarson added that there is strong interest in these machines, notably from operators in Russia who are putting investment into new vessels and factories.
Speaking at the Seafood Global Expo event in Brussels, where the machine the company had on display was waiting to be shipped to a customer in the Baltic States right after the exhibition, he explained that several customers in that part of the world are using Valka machines to process refreshed whitefish delivered as H&G, while a couple of customers in North America and Holland are using the same technology to process yellowtail sole, using the technology to precisely trim the heads and tails of the fish before filleting, which contributes to a higher yield.
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