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Abick Chile's new hard working stunner guarantees quality control

06 February 2024

Abick Chile's new hard working stunner guarantees quality control

For Chilean fish processor Abick, which handles a variety of salmonid species for multiple customers, a versatile harvesting system with quality guaranteed is a must. When looking to upgrade its Puerto Montt facility with next generation stunning technology, the company turned to Ace Aquatec, its long-term collaborator in the region.

Abick, which installed its first Humane Stunner Universal (A-HSU®) in 2014, took delivery of the latest version of the system in October, optimising efficiency in the production line and maximising the quality of the fish.

Ace Aquatec’s Head of Operation Mike Rennie said the in-water stunner is designed to handle up to 20 tonnes per hour and can be configured to stun Atlantic salmon, coho or trout via software control. The system includes our intelligent water conductivity controller, which automatically adjusts the salinity of the stun water depending on what species is being harvested.

‘While the ability to switch between salmonid species is not new to Ace Aquatec’s humane stunners, by controlling the water, we can optimise the stun and optimise the results at the same time.

‘Fish are rendered insensible in less than one second and therefore do not have adrenaline pumping in their bloodstream. This produces better flesh quality and contributes to higher welfare standards.’

Abick is a primary processor for several leading Chilean salmonid producers and cannot risk damaged fish and sub-optimal quality in markets around the world.

The A-HSU® stands out from percussive machines, which are more commonly used in Chile and can deliver hit and miss results, particularly with varying sizes of fish. 

‘This is the first time Ace Aquatec has stunned a significant coho harvest and the results speak for themselves,’ said Tara McGregor-Woodhams, CSMO at Ace Aquatec. ‘Big producers with coho to sell in Japan, the main market, want to be 100 per cent secure in terms of the quality.’

Abick runs its two Ace Aquatec stunners 23 hours a day, six days a week, at its Puerto Montt facility, one of three plants in Chile. 

During recent trials of the latest machine, feedback was overwhelmingly positive, in terms of the efficiency of the process and the end product. There was also a noted improvement in working conditions, said Mike.

‘Percussive stunners are very loud, but with the new A-HSU® installed, the factory became silent and the whole operation became easier.

‘The machine is able to finish the work three or four hours faster than the usual schedule, allowing the crew time to appraise the system and to ask for more information on what to do even better for continuous improvement. That doesn’t happen in the middle of the percussion madness in a harvesting room.’

When speaking about the A-HSU®, Abick Managing Director Pablo Gaete said: 
“At Abick, we strive to be a leader in the aquaculture industry and are focused on having best-in-class sustainable production processes. 

We were the first company in Chile to adopt a welfare-first approach to stunning when we bought our first A-HSU® in 2014.  This second state-of-the-art system at Ilque marks the start of our journey to transition all our processing plants over to in-water electric stunning as standard by 2025.  

The new in-water stunner at Ilque helps us to guarantee our fish quality. Fish stay in water throughout the process which is better for the welfare of the fish and helps us achieve excellent quality results. We are seeing better rigor times due to lower cortisol levels and significant reductions in blood spotting, bruising and spine damage compared to other stunning methods.  

Our factory runs 23 hours per day, 6 days a week, so our staff need systems that they can rely on. The new in-water stunner has enabled us to process the fish much faster, reduced downtime and helped us to streamline our production processes”

 The UK team and Ace Aquatec AS Field Service Technician Fabian Gonzalez Duarte, who provides installation and maintenance support in Chile, are now in discussions with Abick about further investment in humane stunning technology.

As Ace Aquatec continues to expand its presence in South America, the local team will be a key factor for future sales in the region and will also be representing the company at AquaSur 2024 at stand D-14, which runs from March 19 to 21.