From climate change and overfishing to ocean acidification and deterioration of marine ecosystems, several challenges threaten the very supply of global seafood. While many of these threats result from naturally occurring phenomena, the COVID-19 pandemic has also created disruption at every step of the aquaculture food system chain. However, every challenge eventually highlights one key aspect – the preservation measures in the seafood farming and processing industries.
As a leading global provider of advanced food preservation and cooling technology, the experts at Deepchill Solutions Inc. (previously Sunwell) have first-hand experience in addressing some of the challenges faced by businesses in the seafood industry. Read on for deeper insights and learn how choosing the suitable slurry ice system can potentially expand your business’s distribution reach and profitability.
Current Struggles of the Seafood Industry
Aquaculture farmers and processing businesses have always faced unique challenges due to the nature of the marine organisms and the high degree of handling involved. Factors such as timing, temperature control limitations, hygiene priorities, and contaminant concerns drive the industry dynamics, while your business focuses on:
- Enhancing product quality, yield, and shelf life
- Reducing waste and improving operational efficiency
- Increasing productivity and optimizing your business costs
- Expanding your reach and delivering high-quality, safe seafood products to your consumers
Everyone is clamouring for a fresher, better quality, well priced product that can give you an edge over your competitors. Whether you are an entrepreneur, business leader, plant engineer, or Quality Assurance (QA) expert, here are some of the top challenges that you may be familiar with in the aquaculture sector:
- Labour Costs: The aquaculture production sector relies heavily on labour, which has and will continue to be impacted by the global pandemic. While prolonged lockdowns have restricted the movement of people and merchandise, future travel barriers may create shortages in seasonal or migrant workers, and financial or cash flow issues may lead to increased labour layoffs. This means, for the available labour, businesses continue to pay a hefty premium.
- Contamination Hazards: Seafood contamination has been the focus of various regulatory bodies, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and other seafood industry organizations. The risk of product contamination potentially begins as soon as the product is harvested. This could be due to ice contamination, which can happen through airborne germs that get into the ice, excessive handling, contaminated surfaces or ice packing cases, and several other reasons. Besides ice systems and cold storage hygiene, businesses may face contamination issues at different stages. Contamination may occur:
- In product storage containers
- During manual product handling while processing and packaging
- At the time of waste disposal at the end of the processing line
While keeping ice clean is not easy, preventing product contamination and spoilage can help businesses remain compliant with applicable regulations, such as In turn, this would lead to better overall product preservation, avoid rejections, and improve bottom line.
- Complexity of Operations: Seafood processing businesses face numerous operational challenges:
- Price fluctuations and
- Ever-increasing costs for processing, temperature control and sanitation
- Rigid rules and regulations
- High dependencies on labour with an enhanced focus on worker health and safety conditions
- Seafood logistics between farms with the primary and secondary processing facilities
Achieving operational efficiencies also requires substantial investment in advanced processing technology that can maintain product quality, reduce wastage, improve yield, and boost the product shelf life.
- Supply and Demand Dynamics: Seafood supply chains worldwide have seen a substantial demand-supply gap from the beginning of the pandemic. For example, early reports of COVID-19 outbreaks in China, combined with restaurant closures, extended lockdowns, and reduced household incomes translated into a substantial drop in consumer demand for some species of fresh, frozen and processed seafood. On the other hand, with many households cooking more at home, certain seafood species saw an increase in consumption and a drop in prices. On the distribution front, the border closures, port closures, air freight restrictions, and strict quarantine measures adopted by various countries led to seafood shipments being halted, redirected, or delayed. Uncertain demand, broken supply chains, delayed production cycles, and overloaded storage facilities have become commonplace in this industry.
While the World Bank, FAO, WorldFish, and other respective government bodies huddle to improve the economic frameworks that support the seafood industry, every aquaculture business may have to evolve their own mechanisms to counter the vulnerabilities of demand and supply issues. Again, this puts the spotlight back on differentiating your product in the marketplace. One of the most effective ways to do this is through innovative product preservation measures. Improving product quality, freshness, and shelf life means you can cast a more expansive distribution net, ship your product farther than currently possible, and whether the industry dynamics in a pandemic, as well as the post-pandemic world.
- Spoilage: Product quality deterioration is a challenge for an industry dealing with highly perishable food. Whether it is due to enzymatic, microbiological or chemical oxidation activities, rapid spoilage processes are irreversible once they set in. Spoilage control measures essentially involve technological investment to correctly regulate moisture and temperature from harvest to processing and beyond.
Slurry Technology is the Solution for Challenges Posed by Conventional Ice Chilling
Conventional ice such as flake ice has been an industry standard for decades. Almost all seafood producers use ice to address temperature control and spoilage issues. However, seafood producers must recognize that there are many nuances of ice. Shovelling flake or shell ice or trolleying it around the plant may result in ice contamination due to too much handling and insufficient sanitation measures. It could also lead to stratification in bins and tanks where inadequate mixing or movement creates substantial temperature difference between top and bottom, and impacts product quality and its consistency.
Similarly, take the case of businesses using flake ice. Not only does that need a certain number of people to run the processes, but there is also considerable quality inconsistency because of manual and inaccurate dosage.
Deepchill® slurry systems on the other hand, are a more efficient solution, offering faster chilling, quicker throughput, reduced contamination, and several other benefits.
Superchilling with Slurry – Improve Product Quality, Yield and Shelf Life
Based on the challenges in the aquaculture sector, it is evident that investing in superchilling and advanced preservation measures may be the key to solving many problems faced by seafood farms and processing plants. As a business leader, operations manager, or plant manager, you want to invest in superchilling solutions that:
- Integrate well with your existing plant operations
- Improve product quality
- Offer ease of operations and simplified maintenance
- Are flexible and easily customizable to address the specific challenges within your operations
This is where our slurry ice technology, trademarked Deepchill®, comes in. This innovative cooling and preservation method consists of millions of micro-crystals suspended in a liquid solution to form an ice slurry. Since these crystals surround the entire surface area of the product being cooled, they offer significantly quicker chill times. It keeps your product at a sub-zero temperature, just above its freezing point, which is a few degrees cooler than conventional ice systems. Additionally, the slurry protects the product from bacterial growth, tissue degradation, or bruising, which in turn extends the product’s freshness, quality, yield and shelf life.
Over the last 40 years, we have successfully installed our Deepchill® slurry ice systems on various fishing vessels, aquaculture farms, processing plants, and seafood markets across the world.
Here are some examples:
Fresh Fish Chilling, Storage and Packaging: This was an end-to-end integration of Deepchill® technology for a leading Japanese supplier of fresh saury fish. We customized a Deepchill® system that integrated with the entire operations process. At the Yamahon plant, saury is Deepchilled at receiving, stored in Deepchill® before and during processing, and packed with Deepchill® using an automated dosing system. This innovative integration helped them create premium quality, premium-priced products with an extended shelf life, which allowed the company to reach untapped markets, earn a larger share of the market, and significantly expand their facilities and operations.
Sashimi-Quality Shrimp: The National Aquaculture Group (NAQUA), which runs the largest shrimp farming and fish farming operations in Saudi Arabia, invested in an integrated Deepchill® system that enabled them to produce and deliver consistently high-quality, premium, head-on shrimp. Adopting the Deepchill® slurry ice system and automating the processes meant less manual handling of products, reduced dependency on labour, and greater process efficiencies at their farm, as well as the processing plant.
Gain an Edge over Competitors with Deepchill®
At Deepchill Solutions Inc., we are passionate about introducing disruptive cooling and preservation technologies that positively impact our clients’ operations. Deepchill®, our cutting-edge slurry ice technology, not only help you achieve efficiency, flexibility and ease of operations but also further your goals for high-quality products, a cleaner environment and energy savings.
Our versatile slurry systems are available in various end-to-end configurations suitable for an extensive array of seafood harvesting and processing operations. We work closely with you to understand your business and preservation goals to develop a customized solution that can seamlessly integrate into your operations. Deepchill® slurry systems can adapt to your applications in the form of an easy, flowing liquid, thicker paste, or dry, free-flowing crystals. Take advantage of our fast, uniform, and long-lasting superchilling solutions to let your product stand apart from the competition.
Increase your product’s quality, yield, and shelf life, and improve your business profitability by investing in the versatile Deepchill® systems. Call +1 (905) 856 – 0400 or fill out our savings calculator to find out how we can help you save!