Seafood technology involves research to provide the most stable, safe and nutritious products at reasonable prices. Food technologists work in industry, research and advisory roles in state or commonwealth institutions.
In industry, technologists are concerned with the properties of the product and how systems of processing, packaging and distribution can be applied to particular items. Some develop new products, while others supervise and develop processes to improve efficiency or to produce better goods.
Technologists advise production staff, are responsible for defining quality specifications and other standards and procedures, and ensure that standards are adhered to. They perform quality assurance and quality control functions and are therefore often the contact point between food processing companies and local or overseas regulatory bodies, such as local health surveyors or inspectors of export items. Sound knowledge of the regulations, and what is required to meet them, is essential. Food technologists also fulfil a regulatory and advisory role in formulating and appraising standards and regulations in government.
Many technologists enter the seafood industry with university qualifications in food technology, while others have science degrees, usually majoring in microbiology or biochemistry. Graduates are also recruited for production and quality functions.
Research into seafood occurs in some state departments and in universities as part of research projects in honours, masters or doctoral degrees. Studies on the biochemistry and structural composition of fresh, edible flesh relate these properties to the products when they are processed, stored or consumed. This work often overlaps with studies of the physiological characteristics of animals, which have a large bearing on the properties of edible flesh. Process research on new methods of drying, smoking and preparation of shelf-stable products also occurs. Research of spoilage and deteriorative processes under a wide variety of circumstances results in better, more stable products.
Recent developments in fish farming and deep water fishing emphasise the need for food technologists to understand these products. The methods of harvesting and immediate post-catch handling and processing have a huge bearing on the nature of the product presented at the market-place. New developments in the export of live marine produce have drawn successfully on expertise in areas of physiology, biochemistry and package technology.
The job market in food technology in Australia is not large, and only one state has a research group in this field, however with an ever increasing need for technologists in research and industry, opportunities are likely to expand in the future.
Photo: Studies on the physiology and biochemistry of the spanner crab coupled with packaging technology determine the correct conditions for high survival rates of live crabs packed in wood wool for export to distant markets in Asia.