Design and Optimization Strategies for Processing Open-Ocean Mussels in the Offshore Environment
Award last edited on: 9/20/2017

Sponsored Program
Awarding Agency
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Solicitation Topic Code

Principal Investigator
Andrew Emil Lang

Company Information

A E Lang Fishing

25 Shaw Circle
New Castle, NH 03854
   (603) 436-2227
Location: Single
Congr. District: 01
County: Rockingham

Phase I

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The demand for seafood in the United States is increasing and will continue to increase. Recent federal health guidelines call for Americans to double their consumption of seafood. The U.S. would need an additional 4 to 6 million metric tons of seafood per year over current levels if we doubled our consumption. If consumption remains at the current per capita levels, the U.S. will still require an additional 2 million metric tons per year by 2025. The US is making progress rebuilding wild fish and shellfish stocks, however the harvest of wild caught seafood will never keep pace with demand. Between 60 and 70 percent of all seafood consumed in the United States is imported,creating a trade deficit of nearly $9 billion annually. Forty percent of the imported seafood is farm raised, primarily in South America and Asia. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, mussel production worldwide was 1.8 million tons in 2003-2004, of which 90% were cultivated in some fashion. Production has been increasing roughly 50,000 tons each year for the past two decades. Eighty percent of the world's production comes from China, Spain, Italy, Thailand, New Zealand, France, and the Netherlands. Each of these countries produces over 50,000 tons annually. In 2003, Canada, ranked 20th in production, produced 20,000 tons valued at $31 million CDN. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service's Fisheries and Economics Division, the U.S. only produced 700 tons in 2002. User conflicts between riparian and business coastal users and potential aquaculture businesses have made coastal marine aqua farming a difficult process to permit and gain access to in the Northeast, with many communities having a "not in my backyard" position. This Phase I project endeavors to increase US production of farm raised mussels and reduce riparian impacts by continuing to pursue aquafarming in the offshore environment. In order to produce commercial quantities of seasonally consistent high quality product, this design stage project proposes to optimize wild seed collection approaches that will maximize longline space available for growout, as well as optimize the off-shore handling of mussels from harvest through processing/packaging by calibrating traditional processing equipment through shell configuration analysis, determining seasonal variation in meat yield, weight loss, and post-harvest mortality, as well as investigating optimum storage conditions to enhance shelf-life. OBJECTIVES: The main goal of the proposed Phase I project is to improve wild mussel seed collection technology for offshore use and optimize off-shore handling of mussels from harvest through processing/packaging to reduce handling losses and increase final product quality. This project represents the first open-ocean mussel culture operation in North America and if successful will provide business opportunities for this organization as well as commercial enterprises across the coastal United States. To accomplish this objective unique issues associated with off-shore conditions and related to mussels cultured in this environment need to be addressed. These conditions represent the specific tasks of the proposed project and include: 1) Evaluating several innovative wild seed collecting approaches (the Tree Collector) by comparing seed density yields to traditional rope collection configurations,2) Retrofitting a commercial off-shore vessel as an open-ocean mussel processor,3) Optimizing at-sea harvesting and storage techniques to produce a consistent year-round yield and prolong shelf-life, and 4) Optimizing processing methods for open-ocean cultured mussels by, determining shell configuration strengths to minimize breakage associated with traditional processing equipment use. Through the design and optimization of seed collection, harvesting, processing and storage techniques identified during the Phase I project, Phase II investigations will be staged for commercial scale proof of concept trials. APPROACH: The Phase I project will meet the overall project goal of optimizing wild-seed collection technologies as well as off-shore processing and storage techniques by addressing the following tasks; 1) Optimize wild seed collecting for the offshore environment. Several innovative configuration for wild mussel seed collection will be compared to the traditional longline rope collector during the Spring and Winter spawning periods. If successful, this will provide a vertical structure for seed collection that can be attached to existing mussel longline moorings. Thereby, eliminating the need to sacrifice longlines for seed collection throughout the season. 2) Retrofitting a commercial vessel for off-shore mussel processing. A declumper, brush cleaner, debysser, and grader will be leased and attached to the vessel. Equipment currently is available for on-shore processing and will represent a starting point for design modifications that address stability, consistency, and food safety requirements unique to an off-shore processing platform. 3) Optimizing at-sea harvesting yields, storage, and handling techniques. The aim of the objective is to extend the life of shellfish and to create a consistent product throughout packing, storage and distribution. During storage and distribution of fresh mussels, two serious problems evolve. These problems are the limited "shelf life", i.e. storage life to death of living mussels (approximately 2-4 days) and the loss of mass from desiccation. Open-ocean cultured mussels have significantly higher meat to shell ratios (40 to 60%) compared to traditionally cultured mussels (20-30%) and a thinner shell. In order to produce a consistent product and optimize shelf life, seasonal variations in both meat yields and shelf life will be quantified. Seasonal cooked meat yields and shelf-life under various storage conditions will be evaluated for their impacts on storage life to death and on mass losses. 4) Optimizing processing methods for open-ocean cultured mussels. Although, high in meat content the implication of the accelerated growth rates in the off-shore environment is a characteristically thin shelled product. The thin shells have resulted in high mortalities (nearly 40%) from breakage during initial processing (declumping, cleaning and debyssing). The primary objective will be to determine the mechanical properties and failure configurations for the open-ocean mussel shells. Mechanical variables of interest will include maximum failure load or shell breaking strength, failure energy, and stiffness. Using these calculated variables processing machinery will be calibrated and optimized to reduce processing mortalities (breakage). In addition to calibrating existing processing equipment, process line configurations will need to be adjusted in order to operate safely and effectively in the rough seas encountered in the open ocean environment

Phase II

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