Robotics

Something fishy about new robotic filleting machine

Something fishy about new robo...
The design of the automated filleting machine developed by the APRICOT project
The design of the automated filleting machine developed by the APRICOT project
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The design of the automated filleting machine developed by the APRICOT project
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The design of the automated filleting machine developed by the APRICOT project
The machine uses x-ray technology to locate the pin-bones in the fish and then quickly and precisely trims them away using water-jets
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The machine uses x-ray technology to locate the pin-bones in the fish and then quickly and precisely trims them away using water-jets

Manual filleting of fish can be a time-consuming task. Due to higher salaries in Nordic countries, processing of fish caught there is often carried out in places like Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia where labor costs are lower, before the fish is returned to Scandinavia for sale. The APRICOT (Automated Pinbone Removal In Cod and WhiTefish) project set out in January, 2012 to find an automated solution that would keep fish processing local and it has now developed a machine that achieves just that.

Unlike farmed salmon, which are similar in size and shape and therefore suitable for automated machine filleting, the variability of wild-caught white fish such as cod has kept filleting of these fish a manual affair. As well as the high cost, manual filleting also results in three to seven percent of the most valuable part of the fish being cut away unnecessarily.

The APRICOT project has now developed a new robot that automates the process by using x-ray technology to locate the pin-bones in the fish and then quickly and precisely trim them away using water-jets. A prototype filleting machine has been built and is ready for testing. If it works as its developers hope, it could be filleting fish by next year.

The machine uses x-ray technology to locate the pin-bones in the fish and then quickly and precisely trims them away using water-jets
The machine uses x-ray technology to locate the pin-bones in the fish and then quickly and precisely trims them away using water-jets

Not only does the machine automate the time-consuming filleting process and guarantee boneless fillets, it also results in much less waste than manual filleting. This is according to Kristjan Halvardsson from Marel, an Icelandic company that worked with Sintef, Faroe Origin and Norway Seafoods on the APRICOT project, which was run by Nordic Innovation.

Rather than taking away jobs from humans, Norway Seafoods CEO Thomas Farstad says the technology actually creates new knowledge-based jobs while keeping at least some fish processing jobs in Scandinavia. Such jobs were under serious threat, with the number of Norwegian whitefish processing plants dropping from 100 to 10 over the last 40 years. This is despite Norway being the world's second largest exporter of fish.

The following video produced by Nordic Innovation details the benefits of the new processing machine.

Source: Sintef, Nordic Innovation

High hopes for new Nordic whitefish processing machine

12 comments
Joel Detrow
Great. Now we can over-fish the oceans even more. (but seriously, this is a cool achievement)
Mike Stokes
This has the potential of increasing the quality of the final product by processing the fish a source. It will also enable processors to sell more fresh fish. At present fish is caught, frozen, shipped to China, thawed, processed, frozen again and shipped back to North America.
Jorma
Joel, at least Norwegians use mainly farmed fish and they take care about the environment.
Alien
This is really wonderful. It can bring an end to transporting fish half way around the world, with the resulting pollution, cost and wastage.
In all probability one machine will do the work of 5 humans (machines can work 24 hours and don't take holidays, sick leave or coffee breaks) and while jobs in distant countries will be lost, it can actually result in some more jobs back in Norway - doing the remaining processing functions.
Automation of this kind has dramatic implications for jobs everywhere so as a society we need to plan how to cope with changes like this across many industries - both industrial and services.
Oh, and I think the fish might actually taste better for its lack of 'foreign travel'!
moreover
I used to get fresh fish by subscription when living in Cambridge, Mass. (a variant of Community Supported Agriculture share) and had to filet and gut the fish myself. It's not much fun as the fish is very cold (it better be!) and so are your hands. Processing fish or poultry are among the worst jobs there are with many workers getting severe repetitive motion injuries. In addition, their job accident rate is twice the national average (for poultry workers). Now here are tasks that we should gladly hand over to machines.
BeWalt
Re moreover: Totally agree. True progress, potentially for everyone.
One drawback, as a society, we'll have to stop believing in the everlasting gospel of "growth" and the fairy tale that the economy magically provides just the right number of jobs for all seeking employment. We are being so brainwashed with that crap 24/7.
This is a perfect example for jobless growth: The manufacturer being able to process product with fewer and fewer people. Eventually, people as lucky as me (aka having a nice job) will have to understand that having a job is a privilege, a good bit of it is just luck, and there's got to be a way to enable people with less luck to have a decent life.
Not saying that I know how to do this, but we really need to starting looking at that very problem, or pitchforks will come out once again.
Dave B13
Now I know why a little can of cod Cost $5.50 USD. I would have thought cooking the material in the can would have reduced the pinbones to edible softness.
Stephen N Russell
can we import this to the US, huge market IE Hawaii, CA VA CT VT ME OR for fishing alone.
Captain Obvious
The people designing, building, and maintaining these machines will make more money than the Chinese who gut fish all day.
StWils
Some of these comments are very much on point about dreadful deadening work going away, good riddance. Innovations like this can and have, enabled investment that otherwise would have been impossible. Hand filleting is an obstacle just as hand sorting cotton bolls sharply limited cotton production. The cotton spinning jenny literally enabled the end of slavery just as this innovation will end this serf work in China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, etc. The challenge is how to equitably share the benefits across society. The long standing belief that large numbers of low wage immigrants are essential to broader economic progress will fade as more machines like this displace fish workers, masons laying brick & block, many assembly line workers, etc. Where will all the people go?