Curio: matching the machine to the fish

Curio: matching the machine to the fish Curio has grown in the last few years, both in Iceland and across a number of overseas markets

Icelandic fish processing machinery speciality Curio continues to expand as its innovative range of fish processing machines grows.

Based in an industrial district overlooking Hafnarfjörður harbour, Curio’s managing director Elli Hreinsson took a break from the design desk to explain that Curio Food Machinery is already active in Scotland, the UK being one of the company’s key markets.

Added to this are Curio Food Machinery AS at Molde in Norway, and the the company is also looking to establish itself in the fish processing heartland of Tromsø.

“Our main customer base in Norway is around Tromsø, and we have more than fifty machines in use in Norway,” he said, adding that Curio USA is now also in the process of being set up in New Bedford.

The technical complexity of Curio’s high-tech machines is such that training staff isn’t a simple process, and two of the Curio Food Machinery staff in Scotland have been travelling to Iceland for a couple of weeks every month for more than a year.

“It depends on the background how long they need to train – and on how deep into all this you want to go – and the aim is that they can then train others,” he said.

Curio has had a few busy years – with new skinning machines also ready for launch, growing interest in its products from Russia, France and Spain, as well as the company’s established markets, plus a long overdue expansion in Iceland.

“Last year was a good year, and this one has started well. There has been a lot going on in the last few years, and it all seems to be coming together at the same time,” he said, adding that the delay in expanding the premises in Hafnarfjörður has been a headache caused partly by Iceland’s overall prosperity that has led to a shortage of available construction workers.

But now Curio is about to get the much-needed additional space, with an additional 1300 square metres of workshop, with plans for more to come. This comes at just the right time, and Curio has already been able to bring its delivery times down to 12-14 weeks, which the additional workshop facilities are expected to keep at this level or below.

“Once everything is ready around mid-August, we can expect to see an increase in growth with this additional production capacity.”

Collarbone cutter

The latest addition to the Curio range is a collarbone cutter developed for processing H&G fish, and this has become an extensive project that attracted a Horizon 2020 grant towards completing the work that Curio had already begun in developing this.

“We were aware that a lot of our customers were either using old machinery that had been adapted, or else cutting by hand – and not very successfully,” he said.

So Curio started working on a machine that would take the heavy work out of this process, as well as being able to do it with greater efficiency than can be done by hand.

“We took the proof of concept and the work that had already been done, and the EU agreed with us, giving us a grant to help finish the development and market the machine,” he said.

“We’re working at full speed on this now to produce four test machines that can be tried out in production, and we want to make this as varied as possible, testing this across different species and using both fresh and defrosted raw material. 2019 is the year to build and test the collarbone cutter, and we aim to have this on the market in 2020.”

One of the test collarbone cutters will be going to Norway, and another will be tried out in the UK.

“We’ll be testing one in Iceland as well,” Elli Hreinsson said. “That was a surprise, as we didn’t see a need for this in Iceland, but it seems there’s interest after all. We’ll be rotating these collarbone cutters between companies while they are tested, and there’s also interest in these from the Faroes.”

Putting to rest the hand-filleting myth

The thinking behind the Curio machines brings a different approach to filleting fish, and from the outset the intention was to come up with a pattern that would make it possible to adapt filleting technology to fish ranging from 350 grammes all the way up to 20kg.

“We started in the middle and added larger variants, XL and XXL, and then went on to extra small. But it’s all the same machine and at Brussels this year we introduced our latest extra small option designed for handling fish around 350 grammes,” Elli Hreinsson said.

This has performed well in trials, and shown good results with small haddock, saithe, whiting and cod.

“We supply a machine and a kit that goes with it to adapt to other sizes. Norway is an important market for us, and for Norwegian processors this makes things very convenient. They have a January to May season when there’s a high rate of large cod, and at the end of May then need to switch to processing smaller haddock and saithe. So they can process both with the same machine. It’s an hour’s work for a small adjustment, or a day’s work for their technician, depending on how much of an adjustment needs to be made.”

“We have also been supplying a lot of our XXL variants in the last few years, for both factory vessels and production ashore, as there is more large cod to be processed,” he said, adding that until now, the majority of cod in the 6-18kg range has been filleted manually, but the arrival of Curio’s XXL option is eliminating hand filleting.

“There’s no good reason to fillet groundfish by hand any longer,” he said.

“It’s an old myth that filleting by hand gives a better yield – but that’s not the case any longer. The fact is that machine filleting now will always give a better yield than filleting by hand. We’re not looking at a five-fish test here, but this needs to be compared to a full day’s production.”

He commented that trials have demonstrated that machine filleting in the right machine is better for quality, producing a cleaner, better-looking fillet.

“Bigger fillets looks so much better when they come out of this machine,” he said.

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