What’s old is new again

ACOA sup­ports projects to con­vert seafood waste to new prod­ucts

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY NANCY KING

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.

CAPE BRETON POST PHOTO

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.

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