Kenai Wild salmon has cool new resource

Posted: Sunday, February 27, 2005

Cook Inlet Salmon Brand Inc., owner of the Kenai Wild brand, signed a contract earlier this month with Canadian based Sunwell Technologies Inc. for two ice-making plants as part of an ongoing effort to increase the quality of Cook Inlet salmon.

The equipment will make more ice available, helping fishers to ice their fish at the point of capture.

"We're trying to promote an atmosphere that promotes quality," said Sylvia Beaudoin, executive director of CISB.

The Kenai Wild program has been constrained by the availability of ice, Beaudoin said. This equipment will help increase the amount of Kenai Wild salmon produced in a season, she said.

The two machines can produce 42 tons of ice each day, she said.

The machine is called a Deep Chill Variable State Ice System. It produces perfectly spherical crystals to surround the product and give it rapid, even cooling, said Simon Goldstein, vice president of Sunwell.

It provides over three times the surface area of flake ice and helps prevent bruising and freezer burn, among other things, he said. The tightly packed crystals keep heat and bacteria away from the fish while keeping moisture in, he said.

The technology is 15 years old but has only been used in Alaska on a limited scale, Goldstein said. Sunwell is the only company that offers this equipment, he said.

"It's an opportunity to introduce this technology to the peninsula," he said.

Beaudoin said this equipment will be able to produce two kinds of ice — flurry ice and crystal ice.

Sunwell has trademarked the Deep Chill name. Because Kenai Wild brand salmon will be chilled with Sunwell's product, it can use the Deep Chill logo along with the Kenai Wild brand logo, Beaudoin said.

The state of Alaska awarded a $725,000 grant to CISB in 2004 for the equipment. The machines cost $609,000, Beaudoin said. Grant money also was used for administration, she said.

The grant does not provide operation funds. CISB has requested proposals for area businesses interested in operating the equipment.

Ken Tarbox, project coordinator for the icing grant project, said commercial fishers will have priority access to the ice but it will be available on a first come, first served basis to any fisher. The commercial fishers will have the right to purchase the ice regardless of their affiliations with processors, he said.

Tarbox said there have been ongoing efforts to improve the quality of Cook Inlet salmon.

"This is just one small piece in a big puzzle," he said.

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