Breakthrough in producing collagen from tilapia waste

September 7 – Thailand’s Director General of the Department of Fisheries Dr. Adisorn Promthep said that his department has studied ways to make use of discarded tilapia fish skin, scales, fins and bones by turning them into collagen.

This helps open a new avenue of adding more value to the food processing industry and at the same time reduces waste that impacts the environment.

The Nile tilapia is economically considered the most important freshwater fish in Thailand. According to the data for 2016, the aquaculture industry had yielded 176,463 tonnes of farm-produced tilapia, of which more than 7,975.4 tonnes, or 598.5-million-baht worth, were exported.  

Of all the exports, 38.1 % was in the form of processed frozen and chilled tilapia meat. The process of producing such products has created excess waste containing skin, scales, fins and bones making up over 50-70 % of the raw material.

Food Product Specialist Powarate Inthusate from Aquaculture Research and Development Sector whose research is titled “The Extraction of Acid Soluble Collagen (ASC) from Tilapia’s Skin” said:

 “Currently, most of the waste generated from aquaculture product processing is used in the animal feed and fertilizer industries which are relatively low value. Hence the idea of how to create more value for this waste by extracting collagen to be used in various industries such as leather, medicine, medical materials, cosmetics, food and dietary supplements among other.”

before fish waster

“Until recently, the studies on collagen extracts from skin and fishbone were mostly based on marine fish. There was a very small quantity of studies on collagen extraction from freshwater fish which was quite challenging. The result might be used as a guideline for further development of additional benefits from other type of freshwater fish waste as well,” said Mr. Powarate.

The process of extracting collagen from tilapia skin starts from eliminating non-collagen protein off the fish skin by immersion in alkaline solution. Organic solvents are then used to get rid of fat in the skin followed by acetic acid to extract the collagen.

The liquid product is then filtered and salt added to allow the precipitation of collagen. A centrifuge device will be used to spin-separate the collagen matter. The acquired collagen will then be purified by dialysis process and dried up, resulting in high quality purified collagen. It can be used widely in numerous industries, providing the same properties and quality found in collagen extracted from marine fish and land animals.

A 100 grams of tilapia skin alone can produce up to 30 grams of collagen. However, the researchers have also been able to extract collagen from other parts of the fish waste such as scales which will help maximize the material value and minimize waste from aquaculture.

If any private sector parties are interested in applying the research findings in their industry’s development they are welcome to consult the Department of Fisheries.


Top: A bowl of collagen produced from tilapia fish waste. Photo:

Inset: A bowl of tilapia fish waste from which collagen was produced. Photo:

By Piboon Awasdaruharote