Anyone who has prepared a meal from the whole fish knows there’s a lot of waste: cutting off the head, scraping off the scales, removing the bones and organs. Imagine that on an industrial scale. A Finnish food tech company believes it has a way to get up to 60% more food out of a fish by using the hard tissues in a sustainable and presumably tasty way.
SuperGround in February revealed its food production solution that uses significantly more of the whole fish while also reducing raw material waste and possibly making the whole fishing industry more efficient and sustainable. “For the first time ever, everything except the guts can be used in producing tasty consumer-familiar fish foods,” a company statement said.
Traditionally, after the fish fillets have been separated, the rest of the hard tissues, such as bones, skin and scales, either become waste or are used as animal feed, fertilizer or a biofuel raw material. Depending on the fish species, 20-60% of its net weight might not be used as food, the company claims.
“Humans have a long history of eating fish bones,” says Santtu Vekkeli, founder and chief innovator of SuperGround. “Fish bones have been used as food previously, but now we make using them and other hard tissues as food more efficient, sustainable and versatile. We want to encourage and enable companies to utilize the full potential of fish and all of its precious and nutritious raw materials, which previously could not have been used as food.”
With the exception of the guts, the whole fish can be inserted into SuperGround’s food production machine. The efficient process softens and grinds the bones and other hard tissues, with no mass lost in the process. There’s also a heat treatment process, lasting around one minute, that preserves vitamins and nutrients.
The outcome is fish mass that can be used in various ways. Around 15-30% of the mass made from bones and other hard tissues can be added, for example, to fish balls without affecting their taste. Similarly, up to 15% of the mass can be added or needled into products such as fish sticks. The mass can also be used as broth or sauce. The mass enhances the taste and smooth mouthfeel of fish products, SuperGround claims.
Like the skin on fruits and vegetables, these hard tissues have significant nutritional value “since they include a higher volume of different vitamins, calcium and good fats compared to fish fillets,” says Vekkeli.
“In addition to plant-based alternatives, we need ready-to-use solutions that improve the sustainability of existing and popular food choices,” he continues. “Not using the full potential of fish in food production is a huge opportunity wasted – from the planet, sustainability, business and taste possibilities aspects.”
Vekkeli notes SuperGround’s food production technology is available to fish product companies worldwide.