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Ireland Opens Seafood Development Centre

IRELAND - Bord Iascaigh Mhara's Seafood Development Centre is the first dedicated innovation facility for the Irish seafood sector.

On 27 October, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Tony Killeen, T.D. officially opened Bord Iascaigh Mhara's (BIM's) Seafood Development Centre. Located in Clonakilty in County Cork, it is the first dedicated innovation facility for the Irish seafood sector.

With a floor space of 768 square metres and facilities including wet fish processing areas; business incubation units, graduate laboratory, product development kitchen and an innovation and product concept room; BIM’s Seafood Development Centre (SDC), which delivers on a key recommendation of the Government led ‘Steering a New Course’ seafood strategy 2007-2013; will support and provide industry with a commercially focused innovation and New Product Development capability.

Currently, the Irish seafood sector is largely commodity driven with 85 per cent of total produce sold as commodities. Whilst this fits with the market demand for some species, particularly in the pelagic sector, it does not deliver for other species as they can be dependant on fluctuating global markets leaving them open to predatory pricing by larger international trade players. By focusing on delivering value-added seafood relevant to end consumer needs; the sector can develop more stable markets and greater profitability. For every 10 per cent conversion from commodity to value-added seafood, an additional €37 million per annum in sales could be generated.

BIM’s integrated business development and innovation programme which includes the SDC can assist industry to achieve this shift to value-added and over a five year period, aims to achieve €100 million in additional value-added seafood sales. BIM see significant potential for value-added produce in terms of seafood health and wellness benefits, consumer friendly packaging and convenient ready meals, organic seafood and optimising by-products from fish processing.

Speaking at the launch, Minister of State Killeen highlighted the benefit of the facility for the sector. He said: “I am delighted to be here today to launch this impressive facility. A greater focus on innovation will provide the Irish seafood sector with an opportunity to increase sales to key markets. Our market share currently amounts to approximately 1- 4% in most EU markets where up to 70% of fish consumed is imported from outside the EU where producers are operating with significant cost advantages. We need to compete effectively against this and the Seafood Development Centre will ensure the sector will have the best support and expertise available to assist in the development of innovative products to better meet the needs of discerning international trade and consumers.”

The Irish seafood sector is a small player on a big stage with only a small number of companies operating at a high level. A more structured emphasis on market-led innovation is required to enable the sector to grow collectively to meet market demand. The switch from bulk to value added produce for some species not only refers to convenience offerings but to processing and packaging methods that best suit end customer requirements. These include ready prepared crab claws, marinated fillets, vacuum packed mussels, innovative packaging to reduce distribution costs and portion controlled servings. The SDC offers the facility to research, develop and pilot these new offerings before companies commit to full commercialisation and capital investment costs.

BIM’s CEO, Jason Whooley explains why the SDC is vital in delivering greater innovation and NPD for the Irish seafood sector. He said: “We are delighted that the SDC is completed and this critical element of the Government seafood strategy has been achieved. BIM is best placed to assist the sector to grow their business through greater innovation and business development and we have set ambitious targets to ensure the SDC delivers on the potential that exists for value-added Irish seafood produce. We need to change direction from the traditional business models and this new focus on delivering value-added produce will enable the sector to take advantage of any future upturn in our economy.”

the Fish Site Editor

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