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Valka introduces the next generation of grading equipment for delicate fish products

New packing line is even gentle enough for haddock

  • The processing line improves yield and maximizes accuracy
  • A leading fish producer adopts the new technology
  • Valka demonstrates the quality of it's production
  • Productivity is greatly improved in the fish industry
  • The World champions in artificial intelligence help to put cap on the give-away

KÓPAVOGUR - SANDGERI - January 24th 2008 - Valka, an innovative solution provider for the fish industry, has installed a new grading and packing line for fresh fish products at Ny-fiskur in Sandgerdi, Iceland. Nyfiskur is a leading supplier of fresh fish products from Icelandic waters and takes pride in being able to bring fish to any market in the world within 24 hours from the time of catch.

The picture shows the processing line in Nyfiskur and an employee which evaluates the quality of the fish and feeds it into the grader.

The processing line requires not only less labor but it is also more accurate than traditional grading equipment; furthermore it improves product handling and yield. The packing line packs fresh fish products fully automatically into packs of fixed weight with absolute minimum give-away. All these benefits serve the purpose of improving the productivity. The processing line consists of Valka RapidAligner - which at the same grades, selects the right combination of pieces to make the perfect pack and alignes the pieces into the packs - in-feed equipment for the fish and in-feed equipment for boxes.

The development of the new equipment started early 2006 and at the time patent protection was sought for the RapidAligner. The patent has now been issued in Iceland and is also in the international application process. Valka developed the RapidAligner in co-operation with Ny-fiskur, Reykjavik University and with financial support from AVS R&D Fund of the Ministry of Fisheries in Iceland and the Rannis Technical Development Fund.

The fish is gently placed on a scale before it is placed in the RapidAligner machine.

Fully automatic grading and packing of the delicate haddock

Today, when fish prices are higher than ever on the international markets, it is of utmost importance that the processing equipment does not reduce the quality of the raw material during processing. It does vary how delicate the different species of fish are. Cod and haddock need to be handled very carefully which has resulted in most of the haddock being packed manually today. The RapidAligner runs into now problem in grading and packing the haddock without reducing the quality of a single piece. This will make the export of fresh haddock from Iceland certainly more feasible in the future.

The fish is aligned nicely into the boxes without any need for manual labor.

More automation than in any existing grading equipment

Traditional grading equipment typically scrapes the fish off a conveyor belt into a bin. The batch is then released from the bin to a person which alignes the product into the boxes. There main disadvantages of this arrangement is there is drop loss and some percentage of the fish gets damaged which both reduces yield and accuracy. As the RapidAligner gently alignes the fish directly into the final box all extra handling and yield loss is eliminated.

More accuracy

One of the greatest benefits with the new grader is that it can obtain better accuracy than traditional graders. Furthermore the results can be obtained with fewer gates than was possible before. The trick is that the RapidAligner stores up to 16 pieces with known weight. With this additional information a far superior optimization algorithm can be used than if only one piece had known weight as is most common in current grading equipment.

The optimization software which is used in the grader was developed in co-operation with CADIA, the Center for Analyses and Design of Intelligent Agents at Reykjavik University. CADIA puts big emphasis on working with progressive High-tech companies and has as well obtained international awards for outstanding research work - including the world championship in artificial intelligence of general game playing. Dr. Yngvi Björnsson was the key developer of the algorithms which are used to optimize the packing by minimizing the give-away.

 

 

The graph shows the pack weights and the give-away in packing haddock loins in 3060g packs with the RapidAligner machine and for comparison typical results from manual packing. The give-away with the RapidAligner is only 3g or 0,1% while the give-away in manual packing is typically half the weight of an average piece if the operator is not given much time to swap pieces, which in this case is around 70g or 2,2%. It is thus clear that the new grader generates great savings for fish producers.

More potential in less space

The throughput of the grader is 60-80 pieces/minute and can it thus well handle the throughput from a typical filleting machine. The RapidAligner can grade the product after weight and quality as well as selecting the correct pieces in a box to make the perfect pack. As only 2-4 discharge gates are needed for each grade to make very accurate batches; a grader of a feasible size can be used to make accurate packs in multiple grades at the same time. The grader can as well be used to align certain product grades onto a conveyor which can feed directly into other processing equipment, for example IQF-freezers.The grader can thus be used to pack the best fish into high-value packs while fish of less quality is fed fully automatically into an IQF-freezer.

Optimized Order handling

There are several obstacles in utilizing automatic packing equipment to pack fresh fish products including short lead time - all the way down to a couple of hours - frequent order changes and short production runs. Increased automation in order handling and automatic transfer of order information between the buyer, sales and manufacturing is therefore one of the key elements in successful installation of the RapidAligner system. Due to these challenges Valka developed the RapidTrade software which maximizes the automation level in order handling. The RapidTrade software was originally developed with HB Grandi and has been utilized for all their fresh fish sales for almost two years. RapidTrade is an on-line software which is exceptionally reliable and easy to use and supports both export and local distribution.

 

Text Box:  
Gunnar Bragi Guðmundsson
Director, Nýfiskur ehf.

“We at Nýfiskur have had the privilege of participating in the development and testing of new Valka RapidAligner grader. This new machine revolutionizes the grading and packing of fresh fish products, where product handling and batching accuracy are the key elements of success. The machine has many benefits but the most significant are: 
 Excellent accuracy, with give-away as low as 0,2%
 The product is placed very gently into the boxes, such that not a single piece get damaged. 
 The gentle handling makes it feasible to grade and pack haddock in the machine which we would never put on a traditional grader.
 We can pack multiple products simultaneously. 
 Excellent order management as orders are transferred fully automatically from the buyer to the packing machine. 
 An ergonomically designed working environment and user-friendly interface. 

We at Nýfiskur are honoured to be the first company in the world to install the RapidAlginer machine from Valka. 

We wish Valka all the best in the future and we are certain that the company´s future customers will not be disappointed by Valka´s high-quality products and excellent service.”

Next steps

Valka is now starting a marketing campaign for the RapidAligner in Iceland and abroad. The response so far has been very encouraging. Initially the RapidAligner will be promoted for the packing of whitefish and salmon.

The RapidAligner grader has great extension possibilities as it is based on a completely new technology. Valka plans to develop the technology further for packing into small consumer packs of fixed weight and fixed count. Packing of other delicate or fragile products like lobster is also being investigated.

Valka specializes in the development and marketing of automation solutions for the fish processing industry which have the primary objective of improving the quality and yield of the raw material which results in higher selling price of the processed fish products. See more information at: http://www.valka.is

NyFiskur has the role of marketing and selling Icelandic fish as a quality product, worthy of a premium price. It is a matter of company pride to be able to bring fish to any market in the world in less than a day from its being caught in Icelandic waters. See more information at: http://www.nyfiskur.is

The CADIA lab of Reykjavik University is the first artificial intelligence (A.I.) laboratory in Iceland. CADIA conducts research in various areas of intelligent agents, with a strong emphasis on interaction and real-time performance. CADIA's past and future projects include topics such as planning, games, large-scale A.I. systems, robots, humanoids and agent-based modeling. See more information at: http://ailab.ru.is

On request all photographs can be obtained in high resolution.

Further information:

1. Helgi Hjálmarsson, helgi@valka.is, Valka - general manager, phones: +354-534-9300, +354-660-9300

2. Dr. Yngvi Björnsson, yngvi@ru.is, professor at Reykjavik University and manager of CADIA lab. Phone: +354-599-6226

3. Gunnar Bragi Gudmundsson, gunnar@nyfiskur.is, Nyfiskur - director, phone: +354-420-7600

4. Valka Website: http://www.valka.is

 

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