Scott Technology and Mt Cook Alpine Salmon have teamed up in a project to automate the removal of pin bones from King salmon.
Brent Keelty, Mt Cook’s processing operations manager, says the only way currently of de-boning King salmon is by hand.
“We currently process around 500,000 fish a year through our plant and a growing proportion of our market is looking for bone-out fillets and portions,” Keelty says.
“Pin boning is a tedious and costly task and we have to rotate our staff on the pinbone line to avoid repetitive strain injuries.”
Although automated pin bone removal already exists for Atlantic salmon, a far more ubiquitous species, that can’t be adapted for King salmon. New Zealand is the world’s largest producer of King salmon, although the quantities are still minute by global standards.
“We’ve visited the large equipment manufacturers and they have no interest in developing an automated solution for this species. The market is too small for them to invest,” Keelty says.
The project has will receive more than $500,000 from Seafood Innovation, the industry research partnership owned by Seafood NZ and Plant and Food Research.
Mt Cook and Scott Technology, which has already developed automated meat carving, mining and warehousing solutions, teamed up a year ago to research the known technologies and to develop a pathway to automating at least some of the manual pin boning task.
Scott chief executive Chris Hopkins says the new funding will allow the companies to first develop hand-held devices initially.
Then his company “will follow with some more advanced concepts deploying our machine vision technologies to develop a high-resolution 3D view of every fillet and then use algorithms to determine the precise locations of the bones in each fillet. Then the plan is to adapt our robotic automation to remove the bones,” Hopkins says.
Seafood Innovations general manager Anna Yallop says Scott Technology “has an excellent track record of delivering highly effective solutions to New Zealand companies.”
The pin boning project has been set several milestones and is expected to take about 18 months.
Seafood Innovations is a research partnership between industry association Seafood New Zealand and the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research which receives cornerstone funding from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.