Innovation against waste in the fishing industry
April 04, 2012
By Flora Serra
Agência FAPESP – According to a study performed in 2010 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), some 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted in the world every year, the equivalent of a third of the total amount produced by the food industry.
Food is wasted at many points—in the collection of raw materials, during the production phases and transport and at consumers’ tables. To reduce waste, byproducts are reutilized in the food production process to generate other products and reduce the amount lost at this stage.
Eunice Yamada, a scientific researcher at the Food Technology Institute’s Center of Meat Technology (CTC-ITAL), warns that the Brazilian fish processing industry has not been as innovative as the beef and poultry industries, which, she says, make better use of their raw materials and develop many ways of using byproducts to manufacture other food products.
“Fish has about 20-25% edible meat and 75-80% recoverable residue, which is mostly entrails, heads, bones, skin and scales. Some of this residue is used as fish meal or fertilizer. However, most is discarded, which can result in environmental pollution and loss of subproducts that could add value to production,” she stated.
Yamada, together with the Royal Fish company, located in Jundiaí in upstate São Paulo, and with Alexandre Hilsdorf, professor and researcher in the Integrated Biotechnology Nucleus at the Universidade de Mogi das Cruzes, is developing a research project called “Adding value to the industrialization process of a red hybrid tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)”.
Selected from a call for proposals by the PAPPE-PIPE III program funded by FAPESP and FINEP, the study aims to reuse leftovers from the red tilapia filleting process for the production of food sub-products.
The project specifies the use of byproducts such as heads, entrails and backbones for animal feed production. “From the backbones, we will get the pulp—mechanically separated from the fish—for the manufacture of surimi [a protein base from fish that is found in human food products],” explained Yamada.
“Restructured products will be developed from pulp and chopped muscles. Fillet clippings can be turned into canned tilapia cubes for the market,” she said.
“The use of filleting scraps for other food products is a more efficient use of the raw material, therefore reducing production costs. Plus, we can broaden the range of tilapia products offered on the market, encouraging consumption of this high-quality protein source,” said Yamada.
According to Hilsdorf, aside from generating fish sub-products, the project also aims to perform a sensorial analysis that will evaluate the acceptance of the red tilapia by Brazilian consumers.
Yamada is aware of the project’s complexity. “Using and even discarding residues is a complex task, as their biological stability is brief and their nature is potentially pathogenic. They have high water content, potential for rapid self-oxidation and high levels of enzymatic activity,” she explained.
Genetically improved tilapia
Although fish consumption has increased nearly 40% in Brazil over the last 7 years, it is still lower than the world average and that which has been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to data released in September 2011 by the Ministry of Fishing and Agriculture, Brazilians consumed approximately 6.5 kilos of fish per year in 2003, a number that grew to 9 kilos in 2010. The WHO recommends an annual consumption of 12 kilos per person.
Before beginning the phase of aggregating value to the red tilapia filleting process, Hilsdorf crossed two varieties of Nile tilapia, one a red mutant and another a wild black fish, to obtain a genetically improved line of tilapia.
After four years of work carried out with FAPESP funding through its Innovative Research in Small Companies Program (PIPE), Hilsdorf and her team obtained a hybrid with the characteristics they wanted.
“We wanted a variety with the same red coloring as the Red Stirling [a Scottish line of the fish] and the excellent field performance [larger size] of the wild black found in the river Nile, in Egypt,” she specified.
The research project was also carried out in partnership with Royal Fish.
Today, the company produces a hybrid that Hilsdorf says has advantages over the red tilapia variety most commonly found in Brazil (called Saint Peter’s fish) due to its field performance.
Now that they have arrived at the technological product stage, the partnership between Royal Fish and Hilsdorf will have a new collaborator, ITAL, through Yamada and her team, to perform studies on the filleting procedures of the fish with the purpose of aggregating value to this productive process.
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