December 9, 2019
Expert View:

Russian Fish Processing Sector on the Right Track

In a recent interview with Russia's FishNews, Pétur Pétursson, regional manager for Skaginn 3X, shares his insights into Russia's concerted efforts to create a modernized, sustainable and market-leading fishing industry on the global scale.

This year has been marked by the launch of several modern fish processing plants, including the Gidrostroy pelagic plant on Shikotan Island, which made headlines in world news. In fact, the trend was recognized for its geopolitical significance in discussions at the 2019 World Economic Forum. And next year promises to be no less eventful. The long list of ongoing projects include processing plants for PolarSea+, Murman Seafood in the Murmansk region and Collective Farm Fishery by V.I. Lenin in Kamchatka.

These projects are located in different parts of Russia and designed for different functions and processing volumes. However, what they have in common is the high level of technology they possess. According to Icelandic processing technology company Skaginn 3X, whose developments form the basis for this new generation of production in the projects above, Russia is on the right track to claim its place among the global leaders in the fishing market in the coming decade.

Natalia Sycheva of Russia’s FishNews - Fisheries News spoke with Pétur Jakob Pétursson, regional sales manager for Skaginn 3X in Russia, about the impact that these innovative technologies will have on the Russian fishing sector. 

Fishing vessels in the harbour in Russia

FN: In your last interview with FishNews, you spoke about partnering with fisheries in Russia Far East. But what other projects are you working on right now?

PP: Today we are actively working on completing the second factory for Polar Sea+, which is part of the Norebo group. We’re setting up a highly automated line for processing cod. The new plant will be able to deliver 50 tons of finished product per 24 hours and is scheduled to launch in early 2020.

Norebo's performance is really very impressive. At their existing factory in Murmansk they’re managing to produce 960 tons of fillets per month — this level of production is on par with some of Iceland’s most advanced plants. And these are products of the highest quality. Norebo is currently using our cooling technologies on board their fishing vessels, both SUB-CHILLING™ technology and Super-Chiller™ systems. One of our big technological advantages is the ability to eliminate ice from the chilling process, which saves on volume and weight in the holds, while at the same time improving the quality of the raw material because it’s never frozen. These advancements enable processors to deliver very high quality products, including products for export. Now Norebo can supply chilled fish to Europe.

We at Skaginn 3X value Norebo’s culture of production where the aim is high quality, and we’re pleased that we can support our Murmansk partners in that endeavor.

FN: It’s good to see Russian companies receive such high marks from a representative of a country known for leading trends in the global fish processing market.

PP: The evolution that Iceland's fishing industry has undergone in recent decades has required a complete transformation, from the basic principles of fisheries management to the behavior of stakeholders and their attitudes to the resource itself. The cornerstone of the new system was the introduction of the quota system, which forced everyone think, “What can I do with my limited share of the quota to maximize income?”

I always tell my Russian clients that Iceland gained its impressive place in the world market not because we are geniuses — it took us years of work — but rather out of necessity. That said, our close collaboration among fisheries, tech companies, researchers and policymakers coupled with implementing initiatives and sharing experiences and ideas has greatly accelerated this evolution. Since we could not compete in volume with our neighbors, we had to compete in quality. This change in our focus was necessary, but at the same time beneficial to all.

Russia can definitely benefit from its current circumstances as well, as there are targeted government initiatives in place to promote new technologies in the industry and the market is already investing. And funds invested in development deliver results. These technologies are proven to increase the quantity and improve the quality of end products produced from the current volume of raw materials. This scheme has already allowed Iceland to achieve the levels of technological advancement that we enjoy today.

FN: Where is your company’s focus at this stage? Is it still the production of equipment or the development of new technologies?

PP: Today Skaginn 3X manufactures equipment that range from single units to comprehensive turnkey solutions. But we also develop the ideas and engineering behind these applications. We attract a lot of young talent from universities because we are known as a workplace where highly educated specialists translate their knowledge into innovation for the industry.

I, myself, studied the fishing industry and economics (business). In Iceland there’s a great deal of effort spent on training specialists for all aspects of the fishing industry. But first and foremost, I am a fisherman. I started working in the industry at the age of 12 and by the age of 16 I was already working aboard ships, so I have first-hand experience of what fishing is. It’s in my blood. We have people who believe strongly in the idea that, as we say in Iceland, you have to feel it with your own fingers, meaning that you should have the real-life experiences behind all the things you spend so much time talking about.

So, we design and fabricate equipment and total solutions for the food processing industry, primarily fish processing, and at the same time we are constantly training and enriching our own people at the technical level.

FN: This autumn you visited Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky as part of the Icelandic delegation. What did you take away from the trip?

I can plainly see the energy and the fast pace at which Russia is developing. At the same time, I see that this is happening prudently: you’re not “innovating” something that has already been innovated elsewhere. It is important to draw on the best ideas from across the worldwide industry, to take ideas from your own people and combine them with good solutions from somewhere else — and this is the key to prudent success.

I notice it more and more, especially in Russia Far East because of its geographical location. There is a unique strength here, because the potential of the region is vast. Russia is as close to Asia as Iceland is to Europe and America. And Europe and America are our closest primary markets for high value products.

China, Korea or Japan are all close markets for Russia Far East, and these countries are willing to pay for a premium for high quality product. So the potential in Russia is growing as manufacturers have started to move towards consumer-minded production formats — going beyond H/G to fillets and fish products in packaging. I foresee Russia becoming one of the biggest players in the market within five to seven years. No one would be able to compete with you.

President Putin addresses the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok
President Putin addresses the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok

FN: What do you think should take priority when it comes to fish processing in Russia Far East in terms of developments and advancements?

PP: I see great potential in salmon processing, and namely, rethinking the approach to piecing the raw material. This is especially true of Kamchatka, because they’ve got a fantastic product there.

I think we can we can get more out of the fish, and this could be accomplished in different ways. For example, leveraging improved processing methods and freezing. The latter is especially important when it comes to the kind of large volumes you’re working with here (i.e., more than 100 tons per day). In cases like this the producer needs to take its time to identify the best solution possible. And I can say that Skaginn 3X has created a very impressive platform for this business.

Another area of development would be ensuring that the buyer transports red fish in a chilled form. This would be another, very profitable step for manufacturers, and something we’ve already got underway with our Russian clients.

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