Fish Waste For Profit 2019
Chaired by the Iceland Ocean Cluster’s Thór Sigfússon, the Fish Waste for Profit conference in Reykjavík got off to a flying start with a few home truths to get the ball rolling on Wednesday 10th April 2019.
The conference began with a keynote address from Hörður Kristinsson, chief science and innovation officer at Matís, who noted that while an estimated 8% of fish is lost in discards, the genuinely startling figure is the estimated 35% waste rate at consumer level.
“Food waste is one of the biggest challenges,” he said before commenting that real advances are being made in utilising by-production, such as the work being done with 3D printing technology to make food products such as a cod castle, made with cod production offcuts.
“I’m amazed at the money that’s available for R&D in Iceland, focused on research for the seafood industry,” he said. “This is a unique system we have in Iceland.”
Following keynotes from Matis and Neil Auchterlonie from IFFO, who covered the future predictions for availability of raw material from byproducts, session one explored the prospects for funding the future of full utilisation.
Encourage the pioneers
Húni Jóhannesson, a corporate finance specialist at Arctica Finance kicked off the session with an exploration into the investment opportunities he sees in the byproduct industry.
There are more than sixty companies in Iceland working with by-products. “It’s amazing for a small country,” he said, examining the way these companies come into existence, and subsequently grow – or not – as well as looking at how successes and failures come about. He commented that frequently those who are pioneers in utilising material that would otherwise become waste are seen as “eccentrics working with smelly garbage,” but pointed out that often these are people working with ingenious solutions to complex problems.
“That’s the reality. It’s important that these ‘eccentrics’ are there to lead the way. We should support and encourage them,” he said.
Sigurdur Bjornsson of Rannis joined Huni on stage with an insight into investing in bioeconomy in Iceland. Following a packed lunch break offering delegates the opportunity to speak with the presenters who had already shared their experiences that morning, session two kicked off with five presentations from Icelandic experts in the reutilisation industry.
Leading by example
Katrín Pétursdóttir of Lýsi has been leading by example for a long time. Lýsi dates back to 1938 and the company has 145 staff – 25 of them working on quality, which highlights the crucial importance placed by the company on quality control and management.
“Everything is used,” she said. “That’s the way we have done this for twenty years. Nothing is wasted. We have full utilisation of all our raw material, and we extract value from everything.”
As a poignant aside, Katrín Pétursdóttir added that Lýsi has also invested in plastic recycling as part of a response to the growing problem of plastic waste.
There’s a future in fish leather, according to Gunnsteinn Björnsson of Atlantic Leather, which emerged as an offshoot of a traditional lambskin leather production that found itself short of raw material.
“We started in 1995 and as a business model we were probably far too early,” he said.
Today Atlantic Leather is one of only a few companies worldwide producing fish skin leather, and it hasn’t been an easy process. Björnsson explained that traditional leather production is geared to temperatures that don’t suit fish skin. Atlantic Leather managed to surmount the technical challenges – and is still doing so, even in highly demanding markets such as producing fish leather to hugely strict specifications for cars.
“Things are changing,” he said. “Is there a market for this? Definitely. Fish leather is classed as exotic leather, but fish leather will become a normal product.”
Lipid Pharmaceuticals, Feel Iceland and Zymetech also presented during this session, providing the audience with insight into how they have grown their businesses and how their innovative and unique products are breaking into international markets.
Day one ended with a session focused on the international applications of the 100% utilisation model. Speakers from Scotland, Ireland, Denmark and Indonesia covered the steps they are taking to ignite the reutilisation industry in their countries.
100 million tonne seafood shortfall
Guus Pastoor, AIPCE President at the European Fish Processors Association, kicked off the second day of Fish Waste for Profit with a discussion on processing innovation. He pointed out that the projections are for a 100 million tonne seafood gap by 2030, as the FAO predicts that production is not expected to keep pace with demand as populations and the need for protein grow.
He also made reference to the fact that processors will need to invest in technology to extend shelf life and to reduce waste, both to improve sustainability was well as for commercial reasons.
Quality vs Quantity
During the closing panel discussion covering the topic of ‘Quality vs Quantity’ presenters highlighted some unexpected problems faced by the industry, such as the difficulties experienced by Codland in working with fish offal. This is a challenging raw material to work with, which is compounded by the difficult nature of the regulatory environment.
“Regulations really need to change,” said Codland’s Davíð Tómas Davíðsson, commenting that this blanket regulation renders such production unviable. “There’s over-strict regulation applied to working with fish innards,” he said.
The consensus is that incentives are vital, and Davíð Tómas Davíðsson made the point that there is one price for fish liver, regardless of quality, providing no incentive for crews to take better care of the raw material. “We really want to be able to pay better prices for the best quality,” he said.
Hörður Kristinsson from Matís also took part in this panel, stating that there is a strong interest in bringing seafood into the start-up world. People who fuelled the surge in growth in IT in the past are now increasingly putting finance into innovative food start-ups – but this has yet to filter through to the seafood sector.
“These people need to know about the potential in fish,” he said. “We could be looking at a flood of investment. We have to think big. This can get a lot bigger, especially on an international basis. There is huge potential in pelagic species,” he said.
Hrönn Margrét Magnúsdóttir echoed his point of view, arguing that to turn waste into money, it’s key to listen to the market.
“If you’re not making the products people are asking for, they’re not going to sell and we’re not going to gain anything. Listen to the trends, co-operate with researchers. If you have products that sell, then there’s more to put back into research, and that closes the circle.”
See you next year...
The conference was closed by chairman Thór Sigfússon with the words that, while Iceland is at the forefront in utilisation of fish, “we can do better,” and that the conference had managed to cover everything from fish offal to laxatives and cod castles.
He added that while Iceland has leading tech companies, the focus is still firmly on the loin of the fish, and he commented that there’s a need for a leading player able to bring together the expertise for dealing with the complete spectrum.
This sets the conversation in motion for the 2020 edition of the Icelandic Fisheries Conference. Further details will be released later this year.
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