Until 1960, there was no King Crab fishery in Alaska, and street wisdom was that only the Japanese had King Crab.

Until the late 1970′s, almost all Alaskan salmon was packed in cans at the remote cannery plants, for sale to domestic and European customers. Almost 100% of the fish were headed collar and fins cut off and the viscera removed using either the model G or K Iron Butchers (then known as Iron Chinks). Roe was considered fish bait, and was ground up along with the rest of the viscera and pumped off shore.

Pollock was called “wall eyed Pollock” by those few who bothered giving it a name, and was a “junk fish”.

Herring was universally ignored along the entire coast.

There was no expansion in the domestic fishing industry, and almost all sales were to domestic markets.

The Japanese said that they did not catch any Alaskan Salmon, and that nobody but Japanese people would eat pollock products.
When enforcement of the 200 mile limit was begun in the late 1977, and foreign fishing ships were pushed out of the U.S. coastal waters, or forced to pay for fishing permits. Prior to this, the Japanese reported that all their salmon requirements were satisfied with domestic stocks Hokkaido Island and the Kuril Islands. Japanese fish companies soon began purchasing salmon from Alaskan processors, initially small amounts, but quickly growing to the major customer. The Japanese wanted fresh frozen salmon, Headed and Gutted with a high premium on quality and appearance. Initially, Japanese markets wanted gills out, heads and collars on, with kidneys completely removed, the throat uncut and no nicks at the vent (incorrectly called the anus). Later, when the Alaskan plants could not satisfy the Japanese demand due to short seasons and limited manpower, the market slowly changed to heads off and throat cut, a much less labor intensive method. However, the Japanese demand for high quality product with good appearance never changed, and this revolutionized the American fisheries. Since all Alaskan plants were designed around Iron Butcher systems which were unacceptable for the Japanese market, all salmon for the frozen Japanese market had to be hand headed with knives, and gutted and cleaned with knives and spoons on tables or conveyor systems. This was a labor intensive process which limited production and profits.


Bob Ryan, a professional engineer with many years in Research and Development at Weyerhaeuserand Western Gear, had a small Engineering Consulting company in Ballard, and learned of the problem with salmon processing through friends in the Ballard fishing community. Ryan quickly developed a machine concept to automate salmon cleaning which was acceptable to the Japanese customers, patenting the Salmon Gutter in 1981. The first machine, the #638 was largely constructed on aluminum, and while primitive by today’s standards, was a big advantage on boats where manning was expensive and space limited. Within a year there were two competing copies of the Ryan concept, and for a few years these other machines enjoyed good sales. Gradually, competing companies agreed to pay Ryan royalities or stop manufacturing gutters.

Over the years Ryan continually improved the machine, bringing out models #640, #641 and #642 from 1982 to 1990. In 1990 a major redesign was introduced, designated the #643. This was the standard machine for cleaning salmon worldwide for a decade, with hundreds of machines sold in North America, Europe, Japan and Russia.

In 2000 Ryan founded Ryco Equipment, and brought out the greatly improved #644 Salmon Cleaner. This machine was designed to replace all older models with higher throughput, better cleaning and easier and more reliable operation.

The #644 has major improvements including separate speed control of belts, blades, cleaning wheels and brushes, additional brushes, improved fish control, easier adjustment, easier cleaning and many other features will make the ROI on this machine in one season.


In the 1980′s the only methods of heading fish for H&G freezing operations was with large knives or air operated guillotine header knives. When it became clear that both these methods caused too many accidents with the seasonal inexperienced labor used in the Alaskan fisheries, Ryan developed the #225 Automatic Salmon Header which also incorporates a gulleting head to prepare the fish for automatic gutting.


In prehistoric times, the Japanese learned that fish muscle could be minced and washed in fresh water to remove the sarcoplasm which is the protein which quickly degrades in storage. The resulting paste, called “Otoshimi” could be barbecued, steamed, boiled and baked to produce a variety of traditional foods. Like salted and dried fish, this was a way to preserve fish protein in a world before refrigeration. It is so integrated into Japanese culture that minced fish products are central to many Shinto ceremonies. Until recent times, Otoshimi could only be made with very fresh fish caught close to shore.

After the war, to feed a growing population, the Japanese government sponsored a large expansion in the Japanese distant water fleet, and one of the target species was Alaskan Pollock, a species totally ignored by almost all other fishermen. Headed and gutted Pollock was one product, but there was a great desire to make traditional Otoshimi products. However, fresh water was not available in the required quantities on board the ships, and cooking final products was not practical.

In about 1965 Drs. Nishitani Yōsuke and Takeda at the All Japanese Fresh Fish Association (AJFFA) in Abashiri on Hokkaido Island, in a happy accident, discovered that with the proper concentrations ofsugar and sorbital, the Otoshimi could be frozen without cell damage. The resulting frozen product was called “Surimi”. This invention allowed fish to be minced and frozen on board factory trawlers for later processing into the traditional products. This one invention created a multi billion dollar industry based upon pollock, one of the largest protein sources in the world. This industry was almost exclusively controlled by 3 Japanese companies.

In 1985, working with Bibun Corporation of Fukuyama, with the guidenence of Dr. Takeda, and funded by the National Marine Fisheries Institute, Ryan built and successfully started up the first American Surimi Production line at APS in Kodiak. In the following years, Ryan designed many of the early surimi production facilities located in Alaska and in other countries. Many of Ryan’s innovations such as the use of vegetable refiners for cleaning the mince, positive gear pumps for moving product and continuous washing have become industry standards. Ryco currently builds mixers, extruders and screens for surimi production.


Ryco has many years experience designing and building automatic systems based upon loadcell technology.

To build highly accurate systems which are also rugged enough to work without maintenance in remote areas and on board factory ships is very difficult and requires many years experience. Ryco has perfected the balance between Simplicity, Rugged Design and Accuracy in Electronic Weigh Technology.

Beginning with a very successful Motion Compensating Marine Scale, Ryco applied this technology to Batch Weigh machines, Weighbelt sorters, Combination Weigh Batch machines and many other products.

Currently, Ryco builds the most accurate machine available to cut fresh fish into fixed weigh portions. Using rugged 3 dimensional laser scanners, at rates up to 9 cuts per second, the Ryco #860 Portion Cutter can cut 200gm portions from salmon fillets with a standard deviation as low as 2%.