Improving Fish Preservation: Cooling Solutions for Fish Sellers

We will test cooling solutions for fish sellers to assist in improving their selling capacity and ultimately their net income. Our cooling solutions include insulated ice buckets and reusable gel packs to preserve the quality of fish for longer - allowing the fish sellers to extend their sales time from morning only, to morning and afternoon in a day. 

Project Type

  • Experimentation


Indonesia’s unprecedented rate of economic growth has been linked to unsustainable production and consumption patterns and resource inefficiencies. In East Nusa Tenggara, Kopernik has been engaged by Plan Indonesia to assist to implement the MATA KAIL project, an initiative funded by the European Union to encourage the use of simple, environmentally friendly technologies in the fisheries sector. The project aims to promote sustainable economic growth and employment opportunities in Lembata, Maumere, and Nagekeo, focusing on Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs).

This project is one of a number of experiments Kopernik is delivering to promote efficiencies in the fisheries sector and the related benefit of increasing net income.

The fisheries sector in Indonesia plays an important role in supporting national food security as most communities live in coastal areas, making fish central to their diet1. Almost 40 percent of seafood caught by local Indonesian fishermen are wasted due to poor management2. Proper preservation methods are key to preventing this waste.

Yohanes Donbosko and Laurensius Nong Lela, our partners in Maumere (Sikka regency, East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia), are fish sellers who sourced fish from middlemen from the landing site. They transport the fish by motorbike to sell them in villages 13 kilometers away. They carry the fish using two plastic buckets (without lids) attached to their motorbike. These buckets are old buckets that were previously used for paint. In each bucket, they place crushed ice and seawater to preserve the fish - a popular traditional chilling process. They buy the ice from the landing site and source the seawater around the site every day around 6:00 am. 

After six hours, the fish that have not been sold yet are not really fresh enough for sale. For this reason, our partners limit their purchase from the wharf to half the bucket’s volume to make sure that all the fish they buy can be sold by noon. If there are remaining fish, one of our partners, Yohanes Donbosko, will grill them to sell in the afternoon because they can not be sold fresh. However, he tries to prevent this as grilling the fish is resource-intensive and he makes less profit.

2 Nurhasan, M (2019, May 18) Poor fishery management costs Indonesia $7 billion per year. Here’s how to stop it. Retrieved from


Fish should be kept at a maximum temperature of five degrees Celsius during the transport process to preserve their freshness. Insulated boxes maintain the fish’s temperature within acceptable ranges and slow down their deterioration until they reach the consumer3. Reusable gel packs take longer to melt than crushed ice and are more sustainable. If we introduce these new cooling solutions, we believe our partners can increase their selling capacity by preserving the fish for a longer period of time, allowing them to sell the fish in both the morning and afternoon.

By replacing the open bucket with an insulated ice bucket and using gel packs, we can preserve the fish purchased in the morning at a cooler temperature for longer optimizing the bucket’s capacity and sales opportunities throughout the day. This will also reduce wastage of fish not sold in the morning and avoid the need for grilling and selling fish which fetches a lower price.   

To compare the traditional chilling method and our new cooling solutions, we will measure the fish’s quality throughout the day, the quantities bought and sold, and the resulting net income.

Sensory analysis plays an important role in quality control and assurance in the fish sector4. We will measure the quality of the fish at regular time intervals using sensory parameters in line with the ‘Quality Index Method’5 . The assessment of the fish’s quality will be conducted by an enumerator using the Quality Index Method (QIM). Each individual parameter has written guidelines and a score system of demerit points from 0 to 36. A fish that scores zero under QIM is a very fresh fish. QIM is a practical tool that can estimate the age of a post-mortem fish within less than two days, giving us sufficient data to explore quality management over different periods of time7.

3 Singh, Sher & J. Burgess, Gary & Singh, Jay. (2008). Performance Comparison of Thermal Insulated Packaging Boxes, Bags and Refrigerants for Single-parcel Shipments. Industrial Technology.
4 Hyldig, Grethe. (2012). Sensory Quality of Fish. Handbook of Meat, Poultry and Seafood Quality. 459-478.
6 Hyldig, G., Bremner, A., Martinsdóttir, E., & Schelvis, R. (2007). Quality index methods. Handbook of meat, poultry and seafood quality. Oxford: Blackwell, 499-510.
7 Lougovois, V. P., Kyranas, E. R., & Kyrana, V. R. (2003). Comparison of selected methods of assessing freshness quality and remaining storage life of iced gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata). Food Research International, 36(6), 551-560.


We expect that our partners’ sales will increase as the chilling process becomes more efficient resulting in at least a 3-5% increase in net income over time. We acknowledge that the up-front costs to purchase our cooling solutions will be more expensive than their current method as they use recycled buckets and crushed ice is cheap, but we will collect data to verify the break even point and project the potential of the solutions when used over a period of time. The gel packs will require freezing so electricity will be an ongoing cost but we are hoping to devise a sharing scheme to share that cost across a number of fishermen.

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Solution & Project Implementation

Costs associated with the purchase of the solutions tested and project coordination


Monitoring & Evaluation

Costs associated with data collection, analysis and reporting


Administration Fee

Cost of transferring payments internationally, processing online donations (5%) and a contribution to Kopernik's operational costs (15%)


Total $7,334

This project is implemented by Yayasan Kopernik on behalf of our partner who provided grant funding for this project.