Researchers at Sintef ICT have created a machine that finds fish bones using X-ray technology, and fillets the animal with a jet water spray.
The machine is the result of a partnership by Nordic Innovation, with Sintef, Marel, Faroe Origin and Norway Seafoods.
Marit Aursand, research director, Sintef, said getting the bones out of white fish is complicated and time-consuming to fillet, because they are difficult to find and remove.
It means 3% to 7% of the most valuable part of a fish is cut away unnecessarily.
"Fish processing in Norway will soon become a thing of the past if the filleting process is not automated and made efficient and profitable,” he said.
“This is why this invention is so important. It means we can improve the quality and selection of fresh fish products, and keep the industry on Norwegian soil.”
The technology focuses on image analysis and recognition and the researchers carried out X-ray tests in the laboratory, and have used CP scanners at Oslo University Hospital to learn more about where fish bones are located.
Up to 25% fish exports
Aursand said unlike farmed salmon, white fish varies in size and weight and until now, no one has been able to develop a machine that can fillet these fish.
Norway only exports 10% to 25% of processed products – depending on whether it is white fish or farmed fish.
"Most of our most important seafood products – such as salmon, cod and herring – receive only minimal processing or treatment before they are sent abroad,” he added.
“So the potential for carrying out more processing in Norway is huge, and this robot could provide a breakthrough, giving us a much-needed competitive advantage over low-cost countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia.”
Currently, fish caught in Lofoten may travel through two other countries for filleting and packing before it returns to Norway. The technology would make it possible to send fresh fish direct to the shops from Norwegian facilities.
Sintef is the largest independent research organisation in Scandinavia. The profits from its research projects are reinvested into further research, scientific equipment and development.