June 21, 2020, 12:41 pm 3

How to work on a Sea Food Processing Business Plan?

Sea Food enterprises are involved in processing and exporting of fresh and frozen seafood products. They produce fresh and high-quality seafood products for both local and international consumption.

These companies have a processing facility and a cold storage plant where they store the fresh catch as well as the processed sea food before they are shipped to different markets. Many companies also have state of the art microbiology laboratory where regular tests are carried out to monitor hygiene during the various stages of processing.  A standard plant handles 10 metric tons of fish that is delivered daily by the fishermen. The operations are dependent on small fishing boats operated by local fishing communities or large trawlers that go far away in the sea to bring large hauls.

Sea food companies specialize in collection, processing and distribution of the variety of seafood products caught within the waters of their respective countries coastline. Any venture that needs to be successful should be a full fledged commercial enterprise consisting of a fleet of five to six trawlers with a capacity to process 36 metric tons of fish per day. These vessels shall be equipped with typical commercial fishing gear including weights, nets trawls, dredges, hooks, lines, lift nets, gillnets, entangling nets and traps. The ships shall also be equipped with modern electronics including navigation and communication equipment, fish detection devices and equipment to control and monitor gear. Larger fishing trawlers with navigational equipment (GPS), navigational charts and fish finding Sonar systems, which shall increase the ability of any company to compete for the international market with industrial and foreign vessels.

Lack of freezers can be an issue for sea food processing business. A variety of freezing technologies can be used to accommodate different markets. Ice is useful for fish that will be sold domestically in short timeframes. Deep and flash freezers shall be used to preserve fish in long timeframes for the export market.

The typical shipping vessels are of the size are shown in the table below:

Vessel Type

Deep Sea Fishing Vessel



Gross Tonnage

400 tons

Net Tonnage

272 tons

Length (L.O.A)


Length (L.B.P






Ship Speed (M/E1500 rpm)

(08.00 Mile) 11.00 Knots

Trawling Speed (M/E 1200 tpm)

(04.00 Mile) 04.34 Knots

Ship Material


Year of Build


Freezing RT – 25 C

16 MT / Day

Semi Freezer - 25 C

8 MT / Day

Fresh Water Tank

90,000 Lts.

Fuel Oil Tank

180,000 Lts.

Lub Oil Tank

5,000 Lts.

Crew Size

35 – 40 persons


However, companies starting a sea food processing business face lots of challenges. These include Human capital wherein managers and staff with limited professional knowledge and skills hamper company growth, limited integration of technology and operations and regulatory frameworks. Different countries have different methods of promoting sea food processing industries that include subsidies, building storage facilities, providing equipment etc.

Let us now delve into the actual handling of the fish from the time it is caught till the time it reaches the consumer. There are 5 distinct steps here as we have found in our research. The information is taken from a report done by Dr. George Ninan, the Principal scientist, ICAR-Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, Cochin, Kerala  (India) at the time the report was done. The key steps are a.)  Handling, b.) Washing and sorting of fish c.) dressing d.) Chilled or freezing storage

The handling part is mostly done in the vessels by icing the fish. Icing  is  the  oldest  method  of  preserving  fish  freshness  by  chilling and  it  is  widely  used.  Mechanical refrigeration makes ice readily and cheaply available.  In addition, ice keeps fish moist, has a large cooling capacity, is safe, and is a portable cooling method  that  can  be  easily  stored,  transported  and  used  by  distributing  it  uniformly around fish.  Block ice is used in crushed form to chill fish.

The actual processing of fish starts from cleaning. The  harvested  fish  should  be  washed  well  with  potable  water  to  free  it  from  dirt  and  other extraneous matter. Water chlorinated at 10 ppm level is ideal for initial cleaning. Most of the surface bacterial load is cleared by washing. After washing the catch should be sorted species–wise and size    wise.  Bruised, damaged and  decomposed  fish  shall  be separated from the catch during sorting.

The  dressing  operations  of  the catch include heading, bleeding and gutting have to be carried out as fast as possible without significant bacterial contamination.  Gills and viscera harbor several spoilage bacteria in large numbers.  Partially  digested  food  in  the  viscera  may  become  sour  or  putrid  due  to  bacterial action. The powerful digestive enzymes in the viscera can bring about accelerated spoilage of fish.  Therefore,  wherever  possible,  it  is  advisable  to  remove  the  gills  and  viscera  before  the fish  is  preserved  and  stored.

Low  temperature  preservation  by  chilling  and  freezing  methods  are  widely  practiced  to maintain  the  quality  and  freshness  of  fish  and  fish  products.  Chilled storage method, i.e., keeping the fish in the unfrozen condition has only limited shelf life and it will vary between 4 and 20 days depending on the condition and species of fish. In frozen storage also, the shelf  life  is  restricted  but  it  varies  from  few  weeks  to  years.

The objective  of  chilling  is  to  cool  the  fish  as  quickly  as  possible  to  as  low  a  temperature  as possible  without  freezing.  Chilling cannot prevent the spoilage together but  in  general,  the colder the fish, the greater the reduction in bacterial and enzyme activity.

The important chilling methods of fish and fish products at non-freezing temperature are:

  • ·         Iced storage
  • ·         Chilled seawater (CSW) storage
  • ·         Chilled freshwater (CFW) storage
  • ·         Mechanically Refrigerated seawater (RSW) storage
  • ·         Cold air storage

Freezing as compared to chilling reduces the pace of decay of the fish. Freezing  is  the  most  accepted  method  for  long  term  preservation  of  fish  and  fishery products.  Freezing  reduces  the  spoilage  activity  and  extends  the  shelf  life  of  the  product.  Freezing  represents  the  main  method  of  processing  fish  for  human  consumption,  and  it accounted for 55.2 % of total processed fish for human consumption and 25.3 % of total fish  production  in  2010.

Apart from the processing, the key factor that we are not covering in this article is the setting-up of a processing unit. However, that is a technical aspect and can be covered if there is any specific request.

For marketing a business, it will require a mix of all marketing elements, rather than focus on individual elements. The key marketing strategies are:

·         Internet Marketing

·         Advertising

·         Word of Mouth/Loyalty

·         Public Relations

·         Special Events

·         Strategic Alliances


The key advertising goals should be:


·         To develop a strategy and action plan to recruit new customers utilizing effective and cost efficient tools and processes, including traditional media and electronic methods.

·         Developing a strategy and action plan to retain the existing customer base by building loyalty and reducing customer loss by offering value to customers.

·         Developing customer revenue strategies through sales of retail items.

Engaging with existing customers on the Social Media channels and request for their feedback about company’s services is another way to promote. Facebook among other social media channels will be used to enhance awareness and sales.

Even in this digital age, Newspaper and magazine advertising are great methods to reach the target audience. They provide more specific targeting options. The company will reach out to industry specific print media to provide the targeted audience information.

Now coming to the financials, if you are working on a fish processing business plan the key cost factors will be fuel/diesel, Crew & labor salaries, Food and provisions, Managements fees, Trip maintenance, Yearly maintenance, Port due, Government license, Security fee, Miscellaneous and professional fees (lawyers & accountants).  Depending on the size of the company, these costs will vary. Therefore you need to budget accordingly and maintain the right mix of cashflow and additional capital infusion that may be required to maintain the stability of the business.

Investment options from private investors, banks or any other structured institutions may help you to scale your business. Looking for Government grants in the initial stages may also help to scale-up.

We have worked with clients in the sea food processing business to develop business plans for equity and debt funding. If you need help to develop a business plan for a sea food processing unit, we can help. Please drop a mail at



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