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Save our lakes by eating roach

Each roach an angler pulls up also removes phosphates, a key factor in eutrophication, from the water system. These phosphates are bound in fish bones.
Kuvitus: Ida-Maria Wikström. Suomessa järvet ovat pullollaan roskakalaksi leimattua särkeä, joka on hyvä proteiinin lähde.

The roach (Rutilus rutilus) is not typically considered a delicacy in Finnish cuisine, but Paavo Vallas thinks this could very well change. The common roach is, in fact, quite delicious and, what’s more, a very ecological choice. Each roach an angler pulls up also removes phosphates, a key factor in eutrophication, from the water system. These phosphates are bound in fish bones.

“Each kilo of roach catch removes about as much phosphates as the farming of one kilo of fish would produce.”

Vallas is a student of environmental management at Aalto, in addition to which he runs his Särkifood business. His aim is to get shops to stock roach as a healthy and affordable alternative to mincemeat and chicken slices.

He honed the final idea for Särkifood while attending the Aalto Ventures Programme entrepreneurship course. Earlier, while working a summer job at the environmental health agency of the Lahti region, Vallas had learned that each year some 100,000-200,000 kilos of fish pulled from the waters of Vesijärvi were immediately dumped. He felt that this was a waste.

People think of roach as an inedible trash fish, however. Vallas reckons that this prejudice is rooted in experiences gained during fishing at the summer cottage.

“When anglers catch a roach, they soon learn that it isn’t easy to cook because of the abundance of bones. Industrial production equipment can, however, remove the bones entirely, thus solving the problem.”

At the moment, Vallas is trying to convince people involved in the fish economy about the business potential of roach. Shops would first need to start stocking it so that consumers could find out how good it actually is. That would enable development of de-boning machinery, which would open up a much larger market.

Vallas says that roach can be used to make very tasty hamburger patties, taco fillings and smoked paste to spread on a baguette. He is confident that roach will become an increasingly popular everyday food sooner or later.

“Meat production cannot be increased. So where will we find the protein that we need? Finnish lakes are overflowing with it, we just need to start pulling it out. It’s only a matter of time before someone becomes the first to collect the business profits this will yield.”

Text: Tea Kalska. Illustration: Ida-Maria Wikström.

This article is published in the Aalto University Magazine issue 22 (issuu.com), April 2018.

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