His Excellency Major General (Ret'd) Jioji Konusi Konrote, USP's 24th Chancellor and President of Fiji addresses the University staff at the Marine Campus.
The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) 24th Chancellor and President of Fiji, His Excellency Major General (Ret'd) Jioji Konusi Konrote visited the University’s Marine Campus on 23 February 2018, to witness first-hand a demonstration of the functioning of a Portable Smoker for fish.
Last year, H.E Konrote visited the University’s Laucala Campus as part of his tour during graduation, and was shown the seafood village and laboratory at the Marine Campus, which included an industrial smoker.
The smoker, which was donated by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) could smoke up to 300kg of fish at a time and ran on electricity.
“When H.E Konrote saw this concept, he asked if we could do something which would work manually and indicated that we come up with a smoker that is portable and runs on simple sources of energy,” Professor Ciro Rico, Head of School of Marine Studies (SMS) explained.
The team at SMS then partnered with Bluewater Crafts and came with a design, that is simple to use and which uses around one (1) kilogram of firewood to smoke ten (10) kilograms of fish.
The prototype comprises two (2) sections connected to each other through a passageway. An enclosed section is used to hold the firewood, from where smoke travels to the next section that contains a number of shelves on which fish are kept to smoke.
The team demonstrated with pieces of marlin fish, which had been soaked in brine water for some time, and were coated with sugar and left in the shelves.
Through the manual smoker, fish require twenty-four (24) hours of smoking. It can also be done in two (2) sessions provided that during the intervals, fish is refrigerated.
Professor Rico said that the prototype was ready by October last year, after which the team from SMS begun testing the usefulness and protocols to make smoked fish as good as the ones that the industrial smoker produces.
The team also tested the shelf life of the product, from its shelf-life period in room temperature to preservation in the refrigerator and then freezer.
After this test and the bacteriological test, it was found out that with the manual prototype, smoked fish could stay in room temperature for up to two (2) days without spoiling , in a normal four-degree fridge, it could last to two (2) weeks depending on the humidity around, and in the freezer it could be kept forever.
Different species of fish were tested, including reef fish, pelagic fish, and bottom fish and Professor Rico said that the taste between species varies, commenting that tuna and marlin are the favourites so far.
“The Portable Smoker is now ready to be built as many as necessary and distributed to the villages around the country and the region,” he said.
The first phase was to present the prototype to the President, the second will be to establish connection with the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries to present it to the villages and train fishermen to use the Portable Smoker.
“We have to train fishermen how to properly use a smoker, so that the quality they achieve is as good as what we are achieving in the laboratory here and preservation methods after smoking are good, so that when it reaches the markets, it maintains value,” Professor Rico said.
H.E Konrote was impressed with the demonstration and on behalf of the people of Fiji, commended the School for the environmentally-friendly and economical Portable Smoker.
“I have no doubt that we will have the support and the assistance of the Director and Minister of Fisheries in promoting this concept because this will help our rural communities, villages and people out there in the islands in preserving fish,” H.E Konrote said.
He further mentioned that this initiative is part of the University’s efforts to maintain food security for the country and the region.
As part of the visit, H.E Konrote also visited the Aquaculture lab and Aquarium at the Marine Campus.
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