Helping developing countries preserve their fish hauls
Without access to modern technology like refrigeration, people in developing countries often have to throw away a significant proportion of the fish they catch. EU-funded researchers have delivered innovative, low-cost solutions to help such communities around the world make their fish stocks go further.
© Alexander #183267400, source: stock.adobe.com 2019
In a bid to bolster food security and help tackle poverty, the EU-funded SECUREFISH project aimed to improve the preservation of fish supplies, utilise waste fish matter and develop products that could be sold in markets.
This resulted in the development of a range of technologies based on traditional approaches that harnessed renewable energy sources to keep costs down.
The project also led to processed goods, with research revealing that product shelf-life can be extended by using natural antioxidants sourced from local plants such as water hyacinth, which is a nuisance to fishermen working the waters of Africas Lake Victoria. Packaging options were also assessed, with vacuum packaging offering the greatest potential.
Our technologies were successfully tested and delivered quality fish products to local and regional markets, says SECUREFISH project coordinator Nazlin Howell of the University of Surrey in the UK.
The technologies developed included a hybrid wind and solar tunnel drier, a modified solar energy-assisted extruder and an atmospheric fast-freeze drier. These innovations were used to dry and preserve whole fish and fillets in Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, India and Argentina.
In Kenya, for example, Kipini fisherwomen produced dried fish and dried fish fillets using the solar tunnel drier, says Howell, adding that the group went on to sell their products in local supermarkets.
Using the extruder, the project tested fish and other foodstuffs such as flour, chickpeas and rice together to make a range of processed goods, including soups and snacks.
Consumer surveys and testing were done to ensure products would be popular with the local population. SECUREFISH meetings also provided information on nutrition and food safety to local communities.
In addition, the project developed a way of recovering nutrients from fish-processing waste-water and fish skin. This breakthrough can be used to recover oils rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and proteins that are essential for a healthy diet.
The project developed a quality management tool (QMT) covering issues such as food safety and risk assessment, traceability, nutritional quality and the carbon footprint of production processes.
The QMT matches European standards and seeks to ensure best practice when it comes to handling and storing food products. It also guarantees high product quality at a sustainable cost. While the tool was made to cover the production of dried, extruded and frozen fish products in the partner countries, it can also be used for other types of food.
SECUREFISH food chains involved food manufacturers, processors, retailers and consumers, says Howell. We tested the new processing and quality management tools in real developing country situations and in collaboration with SMEs. This was an innovative step to take and helped us develop products that have a market value and are of direct benefit to consumers and processors.