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Are We Driven by Change or Can We Be the Drivers?

Jul 5, 2022

Vice President Sales and Service BAADER, Dennis Schreiber, spoke in the Aquaculture, Salmon Market & Product session at this year’s North Atlantic Seafood Forum (NASF) in the Norwegian city of Bergen. At the NASF, the top tiers in the global seafood industry meet to discuss current topics.

He took this opportunity with both hands to send a wake-up call to the entire industry that we need to act and adapt now, before it’s too late.

Schreiber made sure the industry understands that BAADER is not only a provider of excellent machinery and digital solutions, but that we also have plenty of expertise to offer that goes beyond the realms of our line of business as well as the industry.

Automation is nearly reached

The first part of this keynote was about the dominating topics of the last decade or so: automation, digitalization, and animal welfare. In terms of automation for farmed salmon, BAADER has nearly covered the entire process from harvesting to packing. There are merely a few ergonomic opportunities left for further automation based on currently available technology. Within the next two or three years, the remaining areas where manual labour is still required, such as hand-feeding of machinery or manual assigning of qualities and attributes, will also be automated, Schreiber is convinced.

He also pointed out that the industry could do more in using and sharing data to understand correlations across multiple links of the entire salmon value chain. Integration and collaboration are essential to making the most out of the data we collect.

Sustainability is key

In the second part, Schreiber drew attention to the overwhelming task for all food producers and processors of having to feed 10 billion people or more in 2050. With 85 per cent of arable land already in use and 46 per cent of our crops used as animal feed for meat production, the question is how to produce the needed 50 per cent more primary protein.

Farmed salmon has a competitive advantage over meat when it comes to the environmental balance sheet. It has a smaller carbon footprint, a much better feed conversion ratio, more edible yield and uses less land, and has – with today only a fraction of the ocean being used for producing proteins for human consumption –the room to grow. Even though seafood in general fares comparably well against meat, this does not mean that we can be sure of our future viability without having to change our ways. Markets and consumer demands are changing at an astonishing speed, and our industry is being challenged by new alternative proteins that will probably soon become the new benchmark. It is worth looking beyond our own backyard to the related meat industry.

The impact of emerging cultured fish and alternative proteins

The meat industry is faced with growing competition from alternative proteins like novel vegan and cultured meat and expects that, in twenty years, only 40 per cent of all meat consumption will be conventional meat. The rest will be the up-and-coming alternatives that are of growing popularity. In 2021, for example, German meat product giant Rügenwalder Mühle sold more meat alternatives than actual meat products. Consumers are well aware of the ecological impact of meat farming and are also increasingly concerned with animal welfare, which is why they embrace these alternatives. The same can happen to the seafood industry if – or rather when – cultured seafood starts catching up. While around 68 per cent of farmed salmon is edible meat, cultured seafood will be at 100 per cent.

Co-products mean value-adding

So, what other ways are there for conventional seafood producers to protect their environmental and financial balance sheets? Opportunities lay in value-adding further processing of co-products. Still often discarded or neglected, co-products can become a game-changer for the industry. And this is where the BAADERING technology can play a major role. The gentle process of separating high-quality fish mince from the bones and using it for food products, such as fish fingers or fish balls, significantly increases the utilization of the raw material. On top of that, the skin, bones, and scales can be turned into valuable products like leather, cosmetics, or medicinal products. Cultured seafood will not be able to offer that. And for that reason, it is time for the industry to act now and do something about it.

Integration Collaboration Acceleration

Integration, collaboration, and acceleration are of the essence if we don’t want to be overtaken left and right by others. The knowledge is there, the expertise and all the opportunities are at hand. But for that, the industry needs to start growing together, exchanging information, and spending more time investigating how we can better utilize our co-products for additional value-add. Only by adapting to these changes will the seafood industry have a bright and sustainable future. And BAADER is more than happy to support that change with expertise and experience. You can reach out to Dennis Schreiber at baadercommunications@baader.com, or reach out to your local BAADER contact to engage in these topics.

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