News from the Sitka Processing Facility
The 2016 season has been a time of great transition at our processing facility in Alaska. In March 2015, Sitka Salmon Shares officially acquired a small processing plant in Sitka. Since that time, we’ve been hard at work restructuring the place.
We were very lucky to bring Pat Glaab, a Wisconsin-born expert engineer, on board this spring to help improve the infrastructure and efficiency of operations. With Pat’s help, we’ve increased our frozen storage at the plant threefold and more than doubled our capacity for processing fish. (In comparison to last year’s 14,000-pound daily processing record, this year’s biggest day of processing intake totalled 30,000 pounds of whole-weight fish!) Importantly, we added a much better and larger blast freezer, which chills your fish at -60 degrees within hours. Pat, with the help of a 3-person work crew, made this freezer by taking apart last year’s walk-in refrigerator, walk-in holding freezer, and blast freezer, and melding them to create one larger blast freezer and holding freezer. This year’s freezer also includes an ice machine, for which our fishermen have been very appreciative.
Pat’s business partner, Ben Blakey, also joined us this year, serving as Plant Manager and training Director of Operations Jason Croft on the ins and outs of seafood production management. With his help in rethinking how we go about processing fish, our processing line has become 50 percent more efficient than last year. One major change implemented in production this year involved switching the order of the vacuum-packing and blast-freezing processes. Last year, all fish processed at the plant was vacuum-packaged and then blast-frozen immediately after being filleted. This year, we blast-freeze the fish prior to vacuum-packaging. This revised process allows greater flexibility in staffing needs and allows us to vacuum-package larger quantities of fish at a time. It also means that your fish are frozen faster, leading to a higher-quality product.
A lot has changed since February when we began the planning process for this season! And we’re already looking forward to diving into upgrades for the 2017 season...