Whitefish processing and land farming benefit from work in the Accelwater project

Last week, a project meeting took place in Spain in the collaborative project Accelwater, in which Matís participates. Two project managers from Matís, Sæmundur Elíasson and Hildur Inga Sveinsdóttir, attended the meeting and presented, among other things, the aspects of the project they have worked on.

The Accelwater project is about accelerating the cycle of water in the food and beverage industry across Europe, but the main goal of the project is to use value from water and reduce fresh water consumption during food processing. Numerous food producers and research partners are involved in the project, but Matís leads the work package that relates to Iceland, and here the emphasis is on land processing of whitefish and land farming of salmon. In addition to Matís, the Icelandic participants in the project are the University of Iceland's Faculty of Food and Nutrition, Útgerðarfélag Akureyri and Samherji Fiskeldi.

At the workshop, Hildur and Sæmundur presented the latest news about the Icelandic work package. The main news was about the installation of flow and energy sensors in whitefish processing in order to measure changes and achieve both water and energy savings in the processing. There, a master's student from Denmark is working on his final project around this work.

During the land fire, progress was reviewed in experiments with the utilization of sludge for fertilizer production. There is a system that filters the sludge and results in a mass of dry matter that can be used, among other things, in biogas or fertilizer. Experiments with dry bleeding of salmon and the possible use of salmon blood for value creation were also reviewed.

Finally, the results of the life cycle analysis, which is being worked on with the University of Iceland, were reviewed. The water use and environmental impact of the aquaculture industry and feed production are currently being analyzed there using the methodology of life cycle analysis.

In addition to this presentation, partners in the project located in Spain were visited. The meat processing company BETA was visited and the conditions were examined, but they are working to convert waste from the processing into value. MAFRICA's meat processing plant was also visited and they could see the waste treatment process developed in the Accelwater project. The waste/pig excrement is then put through a water purification process and a biogas plant, and the result is reusable water and energy, among other things in the form of biogas.

At the end of the trip, they had the opportunity to see the beautiful Montserrat mountain.

More information about the Accelwater project can be found here: Accelwater: Accelerating Water Circularity in Food and Beverage Industrial Areas around Europe


Development of a predictive model to assess the quality of fishmeal in salmon farm feed


Jónas Rúnar Viðarsson

Director of Business and Development

Now the Food Fund project Development of an image and spectroscopic predictive model to assess the quality of fishmeal as an ingredient in salmon farm feed halfway through, but the previous project year ended in the autumn of 2023. This is a joint project of the Association of Icelandic Fishmeal Producers, Síldarvällúnn, Eskja, Ísfélagin, the University of Iceland and Matís. The goal of the project is to develop a NIR (near-infrared spectroscopy) prediction model that enables fishmeal producers to obtain a fast and accurate analysis of the quality of fishmeal as an ingredient in salmon feed.

Most Icelandic fishmeal producers already use NIR to measure the chemical content of the fishmeal, and thus get good indications of its quality. However, the NIR measurements that are carried out today are of limited use when it comes to assessing the quality of the fishmeal for its main use, i.e. as an ingredient in aquaculture feed. If such measurements are to be made, growth and digestibility experiments must be carried out in aquaculture, which are both time-consuming and costly. By developing a NIR prediction model, however, it is possible to shorten the time of the analyzes from many months to a few seconds, and the cost from many millions to almost nothing.

This is not a new approach, as Norwegian feed producers developed such NIR prediction models a few years ago and have used them to assess the quality of the fishmeal they buy. However, these manufacturers have considered their predictive models to be trade secrets, giving them a competitive advantage. By developing and making similar forecasting models available to Icelandic fishmeal producers, they will have the same (or better) information about the characteristics of their production as their customers, and therefore enable them to negotiate prices with their customers on an equal footing. The predictive model will also enable fishmeal producers to evaluate/improve their own production, with information for internal quality control. The database/prediction model will be handed over to the participants (fishmeal producers) towards the end of the project, together with the fact that courses on its use will be held.

As mentioned before, the project will take two years, and that work is now halfway done. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2024.

You can learn more about the project at Matís website, in addition to which you can contact the project manager directly


Doctoral defense in food science – Aurélien Daussin

On Wednesday, December 6, 2023, Aurélien Daussin will defend her doctoral thesis in food science at the University of Iceland's Faculty of Food and Nutrition. The thesis is entitled AirMicrome – The Fate of Airborne Microbes as the First Settlers of Terrestrial Communities. AirMicrome – The fate of depositing airborne microorganisms into pioneer terrestrial communities.

The doctoral defense takes place in Vigdís's world - VHV023 and starts at 1:30 p.m

Opponents: Dr. David Pearce, professor at Northumbria University, UK, and dr. Catherine Larose, researcher at UGA-IGE in Grenoble, France.

Supervising teacher and instructor: Viggó Þór Marteinsson, professor. In addition, researcher Pauline Vannier, Tina Santl-Temkiv, assistant professor at Aarhus University, and Charles Cockell, professor at the University of Edinburgh, sat on the doctoral committee.

Ólöf Guðný Geirsdóttir, professor and dean of the Faculty of Food and Nutrition, presides over the ceremony.

The stream is available on Teams from 13:30.

  • Meeting ID: 393 367 671 646
  • Passcode: adzWK5


Microbes on the Earth's surface can be released into the atmosphere by wind and associated with events such as volcanic eruptions and dust storms. Before they reach a new surface, they are exposed to various stressful environmental factors that prevent the colonization of a large part of them. The diversity and evolution of low bacterial communities in different environments has been quite well studied. However, little is still known about microbial communities in the atmosphere, their colonization on the surface and what effect such colonization has on the microbial communities that are there. This study is the first to discuss the distribution of microorganisms in the Icelandic atmosphere and especially their colonization in a volcanic environment. Airborne microbial communities from two unique but different volcanic areas, both at sea level and at high altitude, were examined and compared. The research was carried out on the protected volcanic island of Surtsey and at the lava flow on Fimmvörðuhálsi, by analyzing the microbial communities of the atmosphere and their colonization in lava rock after one year. The atmosphere was also studied as an important source for the distribution of microbial communities in the soil and the methods by which microbes manage to withstand the harsh environmental conditions of the atmosphere. Cultivable and non-cultivable microbial detection methods were used to describe and compare the microbial communities. The diversity of uncultivated microbes was analyzed by isolating DNA from 179 samples and sequencing the 16S rRNA gene of the microbes ("amplicon" sequencing). A total of 1162 strains belonging to 40 genera and 72 species were isolated. Of these, 26 strains were probably new species. One new Flavobacterium species was fully described and the resistance of selected strains to atmospheric stressors was investigated. The origin and trajectory of the populations was determined with a special prediction model "source-tracking analysis". Results show that the microbial communities at both sampling sites consisted of Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria and Bacteroides, but the proportion of their numbers was controlled by the environmental factors of each area. The aerial and terrestrial communities were very different, which is reflected in the different environmental aspects of each environment. Interestingly, the bacterial communities in the lava rock at Fimmvörðuhálsi were more or less the same after one year of colonization, compared to a nine-year period, which suggests that the stability of the first settler community is achieved after one year, but that the progress of the community slows down after that. At Surtsey, over 80% of bacterial communities found in lava rock after a one-year period originated from the local environment. The communities showed tolerance to atmospheric stressors, which probably helped them to survive air dispersal and facilitated their colonization of the lava rock. In accordance with previous studies, it was also found that the most influential selection factors were freezing, thawing and cyclic permeabilization of the cells, and that Proteobacteria and Ascomycota seemed best suited to survive such atmospheric stress factors. Results indicate that stress-resistant microbes from the atmosphere are the source of microbes that are the first settlers in the nearby, newly formed environment by forming unique and diverse microbial communities in a short time or less than a year. These results provide important insights into the early stages of microbial colonization and demonstrate the importance of airborne microbial studies to advancing our understanding of Arctic volcanic ecosystems.


Surface microorganisms can be aerosolized into the atmosphere by wind and events such as volcano eruptions and dust storms. Before depositing, they experience stressful atmospheric conditions which preclude the successful dispersal of a large fraction of cells. While bacterial diversity and succession on different low-bacterial environments are reasonably well characterized, research on airborne atmospheric communities and the significance of their deposition for community assembly remains poorly understood. This study is the first to address microbial distribution in the Icelandic atmosphere and particularly in their colonization in volcanic environments. We assessed and compared the bioaerosols communities from two dissimilar unique volcanic sites located at sea level and at high altitude, the protected volcanic island Surtsey and Fimmvörðuháls lava field, by analyzing in situ atmospheric microbial communities and communities in lava rocks after one year of exposure time . Additionally, we investigated the air as a significant source for the dissemination of the microbial communities into soil and their potential strategies to withstand atmospheric stresses. Culture-dependent and culture-independent methods were employed to describe and compare these microbiomes. The uncultivated diversity was analyzed by DNA extraction from 179 samples and 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. A total of 1162 strains were isolated and affiliated to 40 genera and 72 species, with potentially 26 new species. A new Flavobacterium species was fully described and the survival of selected strains against simulated air stress factors was investigated. The origin and dispersion of the isolates was predicted using a detailed source-tracking analysis program.

Our findings reveal that the microbial communities in both sampling sites are dominated by Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Bacteroides, but their proportions were influenced by the unique characteristics of each site. The atmospheric and lithospheric communities showed significant differences, reflecting different environmental pressures from each site. Interestingly, the bacterial communities in the lava rocks of Fimmvörðuháls were similar after one year compared to nine years of exposure, suggesting rapid microbial colonization and slow succession of the community. On Surtsey, over 80% of the bacterial communities that colonized the lava rocks after one year exposure, originated from local surroundings. These communities displayed stress-resistant properties that likely helped their survival during air dissemination from close environments and facilitated their colonization into the lava. Furthermore, in line with previous studies, we observed that the most stringent selection factors were the freeze–thaw and osmotic shock cycles and that the strains affiliated with Proteobacteria and Ascomycota were the best to survive simulated atmospheric stresses. Our results suggest that atmospheric stress-resistant microbes that deposit from local sources in newly formed environments, form unique and diverse communities in a rather short time or less than one year. These findings provide important insights into the early stages of land colonization of microbes and puts emphasis on the important role of bioaerosol research in enhancing our understanding of subarctic volcanic ecosystems.


Natalie's climate project kick-off meeting

On the days 7-10 last november took place in Limoges, France, the opening meeting of the Natalie project, to which Matís is a member. The main focus of the project is to develop NSB's nature-based solutions to monitor and/or respond to the effects of climate change.

Natalie is a five-year project, which will be carried out by 42 participants from all over Europe. Iceland's role in the project is to verify new implementations of nature-based methods for assessing the effects of climate change on coastal areas and their ecosystems. The project is extensive and complex in its entire implementation, and the meeting was aimed at getting everyone to the table, introducing themselves and the parts of the project that each has at their disposal.

During the meeting, the management part of the project was thoroughly reviewed, i.e. what is expected of each of its members. There was also a presentation of all seven work parts of the project (e. work package, WP) together with the presentation of all the 42 parties involved in the project, i.e. their participation in the project and their background.

The meeting days were long but successful as planned. In addition, people managed to talk to each other and get to know each other, which is an extremely important part of such busy projects that cover as long a time as Natalie's proposed five years.

After the meeting, it is clear that there are exciting times ahead as Matís will participate in the development of the evaluation of new solutions to prevent the loss of important ecosystems. The challenges of climate change are numerous, including the threat to ecosystems that support food production, thereby threatening our food security as a nation due to local changes, but also on a global scale.

You can follow the progress of the project on its project page here: Natalie.

Also on the foreign project page of the partners here: Natalie.


A breakthrough in refrigeration technology: magnetic and acoustic wave freezing

Matís is currently working on a large-scale study where experiments are carried out with the freezing of salmon using magnetic and sound wave freezing in collaboration with Kælismiðjuna Frost and the seafood company Odda in Patreksfjörður.

This freezing method is a novelty in this country and it is mostly unknown in Europe but slightly known in Asia. It is estimated that the experiments will take six months, so the first results could be available in the middle of next year. The intention is to get a picture of how ultrasonically frozen salmon fillets react compared to conventional blast freezing, and not least of all the effects of such freezing on the product in the long term.

During traditional blast freezing, Sigurður J. Bergsson, Frost's technical director, says that the cell walls in the fish flesh burst and the cell liquid should thus clear its way out. When the fish fillet is thickened, the liquid leaks out and the quality of the fish decreases considerably. With the magnetic and sound wave freezing, the cell walls are prevented from bursting and the liquid from leaving the fish flesh. This keeps the freshness of the product. "The market has increased demands for fresh frozen products, and with this freezing method we believe that the seafood industry can meet them with the supply of fresh seafood with a much longer shelf life than is possible today," says Sigurður.

Magnetic and acoustic wave freezing can be described as a green technology with high energy efficiency, where sound waves are used to control and reduce the structure of crystals in fish and meat. Sigurður says this method improves the freezing process and speeds it up, it produces more uniform and smaller ice crystals, it slows down oxidation changes, which leads to significantly less damage to the food.

Sigurður says that the magnetic and sonic wave freezing has been tested on various types of products and preliminary results show that products frozen using this method taste almost as fresh.

It will be interesting to see what this research by Matís, Odda and Frost on salmon reveals. If it gives positive results and researchers become even more convinced of the feasibility of further developing this technology, Sigurður believes that the fishing companies will quickly take over. Kælismiðjan Frost and Matís have worked with the fishing industry on various solutions over the years, both for whiting and pelagic fish, so there is a lot of experience and trust. The goal is always to do even better for the fishing industry companies in the country.

A discussion from Kælismiðinn Frost about the project can be read in its entirety here: Frost introduces magnetic and acoustic wave freezing at the 2023 Marine Industry Conference

The Fisheries Conference was held in Harpa last week and there was a seminar dedicated to development in freezing technology. Sæmundur Elíasson, project manager at Matís, and Sigurjón Arason, chief engineer at Matís, gave a talk there. Sæmundur talked about recent technological developments in freezing and thawing, and Sigurjón about freezing before and after freezing. In the language institute, Sigurður Bergsson from Kælismiðinn Frost presented research on magnetic and sound wave freezing.


Salmon blood – a valuable by-product

Matís took part in a research project this summer that was funded by the Student Innovation Fund. The research concerns the collection and use of blood from farmed salmon, and the project was carried out in collaboration with Slippinn-DNG, Samherja fish farm, Eim and the University of Akureyri.

Three students worked on the project this summer and carried out experiments with dry bleeding of salmon in slaughter, collection and analysis of salmon blood and evaluation of the effect of different bleeding methods on fillet quality. Salmon blood was collected at slaughter using equipment specially designed and built for the project. The nutritional values of the blood were studied and the quality and shelf life of the fillets were assessed using different methods, because it is important that the quality of the fish does not deteriorate during the process.

Sæmundur Elíasson, project manager at Matís, was one of the students' supervisors in the project and presented part of its results at the 51st WEFTA conference which took place in Copenhagen on the 16th-20th. last October The West European Fish Technologists Association or WEFTA is a forum where many of Europe's leading scientists in the field of seafood research and its utilization come together and compare their books. The focus of this year's conference was "sustainable use of seafood".

The results of the project provided design criteria useful for the development of technical solutions for dry bleeding of farmed salmon and also demonstrated that the dry bleeding process used did not have a negative effect on fillet quality. It is clear that the salmon blood itself can be a valuable by-product, it has multiple possibilities for utilization, is both iron and protein rich and could be a good food supplement for people. Considerable challenges lie in its collection and storage in large quantities for use, and this project is a good first step towards increased use and value creation of salmon blood.


Increased sustainability of the vegetable sector in Iceland, value creation, new job opportunities and innovations

The farmer's newspaper published two articles this week that dealt with vegetable projects that have been worked on at Matís' last term. On the one hand, a project aimed at building concise knowledge of options for packaging vegetables was discussed, and on the other hand, a project aimed at making full use of the by-products of vegetable production and the potential for product development from those raw materials.

The previous article entitled "Wanting to free vegetables from plastic waste" deals with the project Challenges in packing vegetables which Ólafur Reykdal, project manager at Matís, has managed and is working in collaboration with the horticultural farmers' department in the Farmers' Association of Iceland, the Gardeners' Sales Association and the Association of Southern Municipalities with a grant from the Food Fund. It is hoped that the project will lead to progress on packaging
of various foods, although vegetables are particularly studied here and also pave the way for new types of packaging materials.
The article can be read in its entirety on page 16 of Bændablaðin and here: Bændabladlad 19 October 2023

The second article included an interview with Eva Margréti Jónudóttir, project manager at Matís, who discussed the project Valorisation of side streams from Icelandic horticulture led by Rósa Jónsdóttir, professional director of biomaterials. The project is carried out in collaboration with Orkídeu and the Icelandic Farmers' Association with funding from the Food Fund and aims to put cauliflower leaves, broccoli leaves, rose leaves, tomato leaves, cucumber leaves and carrot grass to better use than is currently done. They do this by studying nutritional value and bioactivity, but also by developing product ideas from these ingredients. The project will contribute to the sustainability of the vegetable sector in Iceland and assist in its development in relation to increased value creation, new job opportunities and innovations. The main goal of the project is to increase the value of vegetable production, improve utilization and increase sustainability.

In the interview, Eva says, among other things: ,, what stands out after this work - and what piqued her interest the most - is how many opportunities there are for further processing of this raw material. "We have been seeing quite a lot of antioxidant activity in rose leaves, which indicates that cuttings from rose cultivation can, for example, be an exciting raw material for the production of ingredients in cosmetic products." Cauliflower and broccoli leaves are somewhat less nutritious than the flower itself and there are no drawbacks to using them.
in foodstuffs".

The article can be read in its entirety on pages 32 and 33 of Bændablaðin here: Bændabladlad 19 October 2023


The new proteins are extremely sustainable compared to most traditional foods

Recently, an article appeared in the online magazine Horizon, the EU Research & Innovation Magazine, which discussed how people's attitudes towards various neoproteins have changed and developed in recent years.

The article included an interview with Birgi Örn Smárason, professional manager at Matís, about the NextGenProteins project that he has led for the past four years. In that project, the environmental impact, nutritional properties and consumer attitudes towards three neoproteins were investigated.

It was possible to produce three types of protein powder, from insects, spirulina from microalgae and single-cell protein from yeasts grown on forest residues. All types have good nutritional properties, so the powder can be used in both feed and food, and in addition, their production has a low environmental impact compared to most other food production.

Birgir Örn said in the interview that he truly believes that by educating consumers, big steps can be taken towards increased sustainability in people's diets and the world's food systems. In the project, various consumer surveys were conducted among a large number of people from Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Poland, Sweden and Great Britain.

It turned out that people's attitudes are mostly very positive towards spirulina and single-cell protein, but a little less towards insect protein. Although a protein powder made from mange has been developed specifically to improve attitudes towards this type of protein, only one in three could imagine tasting insects.

The article, entitled New foods can go from yucky to yummy as people's perceptions evolve, can be read in its entirety by clicking here.


International Conference on Food and Biotechnology

On the 26th - 27th of September last Aarhus Food & Bio cluster in Denmark held the Food & Bio Global Summit 2023. The main theme of the conference was sustainability in food production with a focus on innovation. As was stated at the conference, the world's food systems have reached the limit of endurance, especially related to the effects of weather disturbances; global warming, floods, sea level rise, droughts, etc. Over 170 participants from around the world attended the conference which was packed with great lectures. 

One of the most important themes of the conference was to promote the Global Food Alliance, to connect and promote sustainability and innovation in food production. This vision is important in light of the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise below 2°C relative to the average temperature at the beginning of industrialization. The treaty also aims to strengthen the capacity of the countries of the world to deal with the consequences of climate change.

One of the most serious consequences of climate change is the impact on the health and ability of ecosystems to produce food. The degradation of ecosystems will therefore lead to food shortages and famine. The idea behind the conference on the International Food Pact is that with the consensus and cooperation of everyone who works or is involved in research, innovation or political decisions, it will be possible to prevent disasters such as the loss of ecosystems and famine.

The conference had a dense program of lectures related to the above issues; cooperation, innovation, research and development. Connection meetings, speed dates, were also held, where each participant could connect with other participants in their professional field and thus expand their network.

The conference was well attended, and participants from around the world could be seen. One conference guest came from Iceland on behalf of Matís and she was very happy with the conference and the presentation. The issue of food production and the ability of ecosystems to withstand the challenges of the future ie. population growth and ecosystem decline due to catastrophic global warming is one of the most important challenges of our time.

The innovation and technological development that has taken place in the food industry is not only fast but also extremely interesting. Now, for example, it is possible to process meat from animal cells (cell-based proteins) and grow algae using high-tech methods, etc. There are challenges ahead in food production, but at the same time, solutions are being diligently worked on through the development of technological solutions and innovation alongside sustainable development and the strengthening of the circular economy. More information about the Food & Bio Global Summit 2023 can be found here:

Food & Bio Global Summit 2023 


It is important to reduce food waste

The United Nations International Day for Food Waste was last September 29. On that day, the Environmental Agency presented the results of a new study on the extent of food waste in Iceland, but this was the first time that food waste has been measured in the entire food value chain according to the European Union's standard methodology. The Environmental Agency's coverage can be found here: Food waste in Icelandic households is below the European average.

It turned out that food waste per population in Iceland was about 160 kg in one year. About half came from primary production and about 40% from households. The results for food waste overall were quite similar to other European countries. However, it is not possible to stop there because the goal for the future is to greatly reduce food waste.

The Icelandic government has set ambitious goals to reduce food waste by 30% by 2025 and by 50% by 2030. The measurements currently available will be used as a baseline for these goals.

At Matís, many projects have been carried out that can help reduce food waste. In a project on the value chain of vegetables measurements were made of the storage conditions and suggestions were made to reduce the wastage of vegetables. Matís has been involved in increasing the full processing of seafood in Iceland and elsewhere in the world, and is currently working on projects that can added value from by-products of vegetable production and meat production. Food packaging has been the subject of much discussion, not least problems regarding packaging plastic and its recycling, but you can read about these issues in Matís's report. Packaging can be important for the preservation of food quality, but deterioration of food quality due to deficiencies in packaging and handling can lead to food waste.

In addition to these projects, there are many others underway at Matís that contribute in one way or another to the better utilization of food and by-products of food processing, the promotion of the circular economy and sustainability thinking. Matís' project can be viewed here: