What’s old is new again
ACOA supports projects to convert seafood waste to new products
Two Cape Breton projects aimed at taking waste from the food and fisheries industries and turning it into value-added products have received more than $1 million in funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner made the announcement at Cape Breton University’s Verschuren Centre Wednesday on behalf of Navdeep Bains, minister responsible for ACOA.
The Verschuren Centre will receive a grant of almost $750,000 for an 18-month project to create a pilot facility with the machinery and equipment needed to convert underused seafood and agri-food processing waste.
Northsyde Processing, a division of Louisbourg Seafoods, will receive a loan of more than $293,000 to implement a filtering system to remove shrimp shells from the waste stream to create additional revenue for the company.
“I think it’s a great partnership with industry and academia,” Cuzner said in an interview. “It’s long been talked about we leave a lot on the table through our processing and our processing practices — meat extraction and then you toss everything else away. We know that there was value.”
It’s an example where research being done locally can be applied practically in an effort to create jobs, Cuzner said.
The ACOA project information website states that the total cost of the Verschuren Centre project is about $1.57 million.
Beth Mason, interim CEO of the Verschuren Centre, said it will use the grant to purchase equipment.
“These are some pieces of technology that are just coming to market at pilot scale that a lot of companies can benefit form testing out,” she said. “The equipment is all for a pilot facility for fractionation of byproducts into value-add, so it’s almost like an oil refinery in mini-scale. We take the low-end product on the incoming side and out of that comes a whole range of products. Everything is used.”
For many companies in the agri-food sector, waste and its disposal is a huge cost of doing business.
“If we can take that, we can save those companies money on the disposal side and then make money on the new product development side, and so we’re providing sustainability to the companies,” she said. “A lot of large companies and small alike now, to be able to sell into the food market, have to have a sustainability plan.”
Many academic advancements “stay on the bench,” Mason said, while this is an example of trying to commercialize research, apply it practically and potentially benefit industry.
“The idea is to increase uptake of academic research by providing this kind of space and this kind of piloting capacity,” she said.
Cuzner described Louisbourg Seafoods as a bold, aggressive company that has been willing to invest in science.
“Governments can’t do it, it has to be driven by the private sector, with the institutions playing a support role and the government of Canada being a partner,” Cuzner said.
Adam Mugridge, project development manager with Northsyde Processing Ltd., said the company has worked with the Verschuren Centre on the research project and will now invest in technology to treat the waste initially from its shrimp and crab processing. Down the road, other shellfish and groundfish could also be used.
The ACOA project information website indicates that the full amount of government funding for the Northsyde Processing project is $365,250. The total project cost is listed as $586,500.
They plan to dehydrate the shells to produce a product that can be sold internationally, at the same time diverting waste that would otherwise go to landfills.
“The dehydrated shell can be made into all types of different things,” Mugridge said. “Shell has compounds in it known as chitin or chitosan and it’s refined further into glucosamine, so these types of products are used as medical bandages, diet supplements, additives into paint and chemicals, filtration products as well, all types of different usages.”
CBU and the Verschuren Centre provides the company with a research capacity that it wouldn’t be able to afford to do on its own, Mugridge said.
There is increasing pressure on businesses to do more to be ecologically sustainable, he added.
“The days of diverting things to landfill and just hoping that they’ll disappear seems to have passed, but as well it’s about being competitive in the marketplace and waste products represent a major cost to us,” Mugridge said.
Beth Mason, interim CEO of Cape Breton University’s Verschuren Centre, said an ACOA grant of almost $750,000 will allow it to purchase equipment like this to convert underused seafood and agri-food processing waste during an announcement at the centre, Wednesday. This is a sonication unit that uses sound radiation to create cell disruption.