Til innholdet




Prosjektnummer: 901699
Status: Pågår
Startdato: 01.07.2021
Sluttdato: 30.11.2023

Automatisk mating av produksjonsmaskiner i hvitfisknæringen

Valka is specialized in production of automation equipment and software for the fish industry that increase the quality and value of fish products. Among other products Valka has developed is a water jet cutting machine that cuts bones from fillets based on x-ray and 3D vision. Valka was the first company to develop a commercially feasible cutting machine that can cut pin bones automatically from fish fillets and to deliver such a cutting machine for ships, where the development was funded by FHF.

Over the recent years, Valka has expanded its portfolio and developed other fish processing machines, for example graders, aligners, and trimming stations. However, the transfer between different processing machines has not been addressed to the same extent. The transfer is usually solved with a system of conveyor belts and single or multiple workers to ensure that the fish is properly delivered (dependent on the process but can include turning, flipping, straighten out, move sideways, etc.). It would be highly beneficial to make this process more automated, where the worker(s) would have a minor intervention to the raw material to minimize human handling and focus more on ensuring quality. Furthermore, with a completely developed technique, the worker(s) could be removed completely. Additionally, the complete technology would need to evaluate the quality of the product as that is currently performed by the worker(s) that are feeding the machines.

This project is an opportunity for Valka to further improve its production line by improving the infeed to for example, a whole fish grader, a gutting machine or heading machine, making the process more automated. Furthermore, an automated infeed for different machines will be a step towards the future, where the whitefish catch is brought fresh to the processing plant and processed directly from the ship.

There are four main objectives to be solved:
1. Ensure a consistent infeed rate.
2. Ensure right orientation of the fish (headfirst and belly on the correct side).
3. Perform an automated quality evaluation.
4. Treat post-rigour fish with unnatural shape (extreme cases can have a U-shape). This is a specific challenge to the whitefish industry where this is not seen for example in the salmon industry.

This project corresponds well to Valka’s portfolio, where an early-stage concept has already been demonstrated for feeding salmon fully automatically from a bleeding tank to a gutting machine. However, that concept has not reached a prototype stage yet. Therefore, further developments of the solution are needed with some concept modifications for whitefish. Modifications are needed as the salmon and whitefish industries are different, where the salmon industry has a significantly higher consistency in terms of size and quality. The whitefish industry must, on the other hand, have a significantly higher degree of flexibility in the processing line to treat large size ranges and a broad variety in quality.

The solution from this project can be used for different whitefish processing machineries, for example a whole fish grader, a gutting machine, a de-heading machine or a filleting machine. For the whole fish grader, a sub-system of the final solution would be sufficient, where the belly left/right does not matter, whereas a head/tail orientation and a quality evaluation would be ideal. Additionally, the whole solution, for gutting or heading machineries for example, would be highly dependent on the manufacturer and type. It is for example easier to feed a salmon gutting machine – where the fish is fed into a buffer with the correct orientation – and a filleting machine where the fish must be positioned on a saddle. This project will thus focus on getting the machine one-by-one to the machines in the correct orientation and special loading systems, as would be need for most filleting machines, are therefore left for future development.
Main objective
To receive whole fish in bulk and deliver each fish one-by-one at the correct rate, e.g. 30 fishes/minute, and with the correct orientation where that is needed, to a machine. Originally the plan is a feeding system for graders and gutting machines.

Based on a conceptual design for a salmon system that Valka is working on developing, the following objectives are defined:
• To receive fish in bulk and transfer it into a single stream:
   ◦ Modifications in the conceptual design to handle whitefish.
   ◦ Build a prototype.
   ◦ Test and error correct the sub-system prototype.
• To regulate the infeed stream:
   ◦ Modifications in the conceptual design to handle whitefish.
   ◦ Build a prototype.
   ◦ Test and error correct the sub-system prototype.
• To find a solution for an unnaturally shaped post-rigour whitefish:
   ◦ Automated quality evaluation from a vision system.
• To build a prototype for the complete system:
   ◦ Test and error correct the prototype of complete system.
• To test and error correction of the complete system in a processing line.​
Expected project impact
The following impact is expected:
1. To make the process of receiving whole fish in bulk and deliver it as a single stream to a grader or a gutting machine.

2. The flow of whole fish would become steadier as it would be a part of an automated processing line. Several benefits are gained with the increased automation:
a. ​Less human handle of each fish: Higher quality.
b. Less accumulation of whole fish in a pile in front of the gutting machine: Higher quality.
c. More steady flow resulting in less time spent in the fish processing factory atmosphere, i.e., outside of iced water or cold stores: Higher quality.
d. The specialized in-feed workers could be replaced by the automated system: Lower salary cost.
e. Less risk of accidents: Decreased insurance.

3. The solution will increase automation in the whitefish industry. Increased automation is highly beneficial as it will limit the human handling of the raw material and thus ensure the high quality. Additionally, the increased automation will save labour cost. As a result, the solution is well worth the budget spent in this project.
Project design and implementation
The project is divided into five phases, where Valka is resposible for all phases:

Phase 1: Conceptual design

• Overall system requirements
• Whitefish from bulk to a single stream
• Regulated flow
• Solution to an unnaturally shaped post-rigour whitefish

Phase 2: Design
• Mechanical design
• Electrical design

Phase 3: Software development
• Identify the need for high level software
• Design a vision system
• Develop a quality evaluation system
• Design, produce and test a prototype unit for the vision system

Phase 4: Proof of concept

• Prototype:
   ◦ Whitefish in bulk to a single stream
   ◦ Regulated flow
   ◦ Solution to an unnaturally shaped post-rigour fish
• Test and error correction of the complete system prototype at Valka

Phase 5: Test and error correction of prototype in production

All solutions will include an automatic cleaning. This is something Valka has experience with and is included in several products already available.

There are couple of breakpoints, where the continuation of the project is evaluated:
After phase 3 it can be evaluated if a prototype is feasible and practical.
After phase 4 it can be evaluated if the solution is feasible in a realistic environment in a real production.

The project will be a cooperation between Valka AS, Lerøy Norway Seafood and Båtsfjordbruket. Valka AS will be responsible for developing the solution. Lerøy Norway Seafood and Båtsfjordbruket will not have a direct cost from the project but will provide an opportunity and a facility to test and error correct the new system in a production. There is a strong relation between the companies that will help with the development of the project.

​The results from this project will be communicated with Valka’s old and new customers, and on FHF’s internet homepage.​