Improving Fish Preservation: Cooling Solutions for Wholesalers

We are comparing four types of cooling solutions appropriate for wholesalers exporting fish from East Nusa Tenggara, to find a solution that will increase a business’ net income by three to five percent.

Project Type

  • Experimentation


Indonesia’s unprecedented rate of economic growth has been linked to unsustainable production and consumption patterns and reImage credit 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 efficiency in the fisheries sector with the related benefit of increasing net income for workers. Small-scale businesses in the fisheries sector are the source of 50 percent of the global seafood supply1. From our interviews with, UD Lintas Samudra, our partner in Maumere (Sikka regency, East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia), we found that they are a small wholesale business who sourced fish from local artisanal fishermen to be sent to Makassar for export. After the fish is screened and repackaged by the export hub in Makassar, it is sent to countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and The United Arab Emirates.

UD Lintas Samudra, led by Darwin, has built relationships with local fishermen over the past 20 years and they come to him to sell their catch. Darwin buys the species and quantities he requires based on orders he has received from the Makassar export hub. Since shipment to Makassar from Maumere takes one to two days by sea, and there is a minimum amount for shipping to be profitable, our partner conducts a chilling process to preserve the fish until it is ready to ship. Chilling is a method which extends the shelf life of the fish by keeping the fish at a temperature that slows down enzymes and bacteria which deteriorate the fish quality2

Our partner currently uses styrofoam boxes filled with crushed ice and seawater for their chilling process. The crushed ice is home-made, using six freezers with high running costs. This ice requires one full day of freezing. When chilling, the ice needs to be changed every day as it melts by the end of each day in the styrofoam box.

Findings from our Market Demand Research revealed that only 10 percent of income received each month is profit. A minimal figure, telling us that a high percentage of income is spent on operational costs for the business. Looking at their business activity, we believe that our partner’s chilling process needs to be more efficient - reducing the operational costs while maintaining the required fish quality for export.

1. Goodrich, R. (2019, February 18). Focusing the blue economy future on small-scale fisheries. Retrieved April 18, 2019,  


We believe Darwin’s operational costs can be reduced in a number of ways. First by replacing his styrofoam boxes that need to be replaced every six months, with a more sustainable insulated container with 10 years recommended life-time. Secondly, by using reusable gel packs that need to be replaced less frequently than ice and require less freezer space and potentially less time to freeze. As well, if this chilling method proves to keep fresh fish longer than the current method this may result in the option for Darwin to choose a cheaper shipping method.

We will measure the quality of the fish over time using sensory parameters in line with the ‘Quality Index Method’3. The assessment of fish quality will be conducted by an enumerator using the Quality Index Method (QIM) - a quality assessment of fresh fish based on sensory parameters. Each individual parameter has written guidelines and a scoring system of demerit points from 0 to 34. Thus, a fish that scores zero in 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 time5.

There will be four cooling solutions set-ups for this experiment. Seawater is the only variable that will be kept the same for all set-ups while the container and the cooling material will be changed. In Set-up A, we will use an insulated container and reusable gel packs. Set-up B will use a styrofoam box with reusable gel packs. Insulated containers and ice will be used for Set-up C, while the Set-up D will be the current configuration for chilling used by Darwin, consisting of a styrofoam box and ice.

The reusable gel packs’ lifetime is recommended at three years. Based on the projection of its manufacturer in Indonesia, 68 percent of operational costs are saved when using reusable gel packs compared to the ice during three years of use6. We will verify this information in our experiment. 

4 Hyldig, G., Bremner, A., Martinsdóttir, E., & Schelvis, R. (2007). Quality index methods. Handbook of meat, poultry and seafood quality. Oxford: Blackwell, 499-510.
5 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 UD Lintas Samudra’s costs will be reduced in a number of ways, although the full potential may not have immediate effects due to the upfront investment required for the shift in behavior. We are expecting that by ten years, which is the insulated container’s lifetime, Set-up A will cost less than Set-up D by eight percent. This cost is reduced because in the reusable ice packs in Set-up A will require less space and less length of time to freeze than the blocks of ice Darwin is currently freezing for daily usage using his six freezers.

Another indirect impact that we are hoping to see would be a change in behavior to minimize the use of styrofoam which is an environmental habit in both its manufacture and disposal, particularly in eastern Indonesia where there is a lack of waste management infrastructure. Darwin may also not have a choice soon but to find an alternative as styrofoam has recently been banned in a few locations in Indonesia by government-led legislation.  

Show Project Location



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 $6,892

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