Converting Crab Waste to Chitin
MIPS Helps Launch New Plant on Eastern Shore
Tynisa Trapps, Maryland Industrial Partnerships
Blue crabs may be the major fishery in Maryland, but the waste left behind in processing crabs is also a major headache. Every pound of picked crabmeat results in about six pounds of shell and runny chum - around 4,000 tons in an average year. Most landfills will no longer take this dense tonnage because crab chum releases ammonia and nitrates that can evaporate and seep through soil, potentially polluting shallow aquifers, streams and creeks. One innovative way of trying to deal with this waste has been to process it for potentially valuable products. And that is something Pat Condon has been doing since he came to the Eastern Shore in the early 90s.
Condon began with New Earth Services, a company he founded in order to compost crab wastes. He is now managing director of ChitinWorks, a new independent company that is just beginning to extract chitin from crab shell in order to process chitosan, a compound that has wide-ranging commercial possibilities.
When Condon began composting crab scrap, he had an initial grant from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) to help optimize the processing operation. MIPS is a program of the University of Maryland's Engineering Research Center that links Maryland companies with university researchers; it also provides matching funds to help companies pay for research and development. New Earth Services has since been collecting crab wastes from processing houses and composting it to produce Chesapeake Blue mulch. Though highly regarded by gardeners, its production is not profitable, says Condon. Meanwhile he had begun composting chicken waste, which has expanded to become the major part of his enterprise; though New Earth Services is still producing Chesapeake Blue, it remains less than five percent of the business.
To recycle crab scrap profitably, however, Condon needed a higher-end product. He began speaking with Greg Payne, a scientist at the University of Maryland Baltimore County's Chemical and Biochemical Engineering Department and the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute. Payne had done work on the use of enzymes for advanced waste management and his research included studies on chitosan, a derivative of chitin. After cellulose, chitin is nature's most abundant compound; it makes up the shells of crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters, insects, zooplankton, even the cell walls of mushrooms. It is a natural polymer (a large molecule composed of repeating units) that can be chemically modified to produce chitosan, a compound that has numerous industrial uses.
"While this material is very valuable, the process for extracting chitin and processing chitosan is expensive," Payne says. The reason is that in stripping chitin from tightly-bound protein in shells, a heavy-duty treatment of acids and bases is required; not only are these chemicals expensive, they also present potential environmental hazards and require careful treatment, all of which drives up costs.
But Payne's research indicated that chitosan had untapped chemical properties and that its commercial potential could, in the long run, stimulate industrial innovation and drive production costs down. Toward that end, Payne worked with support from Maryland Sea Grant to study how the structure of chitosan could be controllably altered so that manufacturers might be more interested in tailoring its properties for a variety of uses. At the same time, he began working with Condon, with MIPS support, to explore the feasibility of extracting chitin from crab scrap and producing chitosan.
This collaboration has led to ChitinWorks, which is located in Cambridge, close to major crab processors. The plant is designed to receive up to twenty tons of crab waste a day, which is first stabilized in a pretreatment stage in order to inhibit rotting. In the next step, acids are used to remove minerals from the crab shells; bases are then employed to remove any proteins or meat tucked into the shells. In the final step, the chitin is processed into chitosan. A good deal of proteinaceous waste is generated from this operation, which is shipped to New Earth Services for composting into Chesapeake Blue.
The first customer for chitosan will be Venture Chemicals, a specialty chemical company in Louisiana whose product line is based on natural polymers like chitosan, which the company expects to sell as a drilling fluid additive. With ChitinWorks just getting underway, the next few years should show whether a waste product that was once turned away can now be turned into a profitable business.
To learn more about Dr. Greg Payne's research see www.
research.umbc.edu/~marten/CBE/faculty/payne/payne.html. For more on the process of extracting chitin and producing chitosan, see "Treasure from Trash: Is There Profit in Crab Waste," Marine Notes (March-April 1997). Call or write Maryland Sea Grant for a copy at (301) 405-7500 or e-mail connors@ mdsg.umd.edu; the article can be read or downloaded at www.mdsg.umd.edu/MarineNotes/Mar-Apr97/.
Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS)
The Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program establishes collaborative research and development partnerships between companies and researchers at the University System of Maryland's 13 institutions. MIPS, a program of the Engineering Research Center at the University of Maryland., provides matching funds for university based research to help companies develop products or processes. Projects involving the development of technical training materials are also eligible. MIPS will match companies with appropriate researchers. Awards are competitive. A company should demonstrate that its project has potential for significant commercial benefit, thus enhancing the Maryland economy. Up to $100,000 in MIPS matching funds is available per project per year ($70,000 for start-ups). Companies with operations in Maryland are invited to participate.
For more information: Maryland Industrial Partnerships, Engineering Research Center, University of Maryland, College Park, Potomac Building #092, Room 2100, College Park, MD 20742-3415, Tel. (301) 405-3891, Fax (301) 403-4105, www.erc.umd.edu/MIPS/, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Soft Crab Production Y2K
Don Webster, Eastern Shore Marine Agent
Maryland's soft crab production got off to a good start this year. The relatively mild winter resulted in good survival of the overwintering crab population. There was reported to be a good supply of high quality peelers in May for the first run. Shedders importing peeler crabs from other states, where they are harvested sooner, also reported good results and strong survival, with markets ready for the fresh product.
Water temperatures rose significantly due to a stretch of hot weather that got the crabs active and moving. There were some dark spots, however. An oil spill in the Patuxent River caused concern for the resources in that area as crews busied themselves in the cleanup effort. Abundant rainfall during late April and most of May kept water temperatures lower than they should have been in many areas, although there does not seem to have been much of an effect on salinity in most parts of the area. Salinity at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Lab near Cambridge on the Eastern Shore was still running at eight to nine parts per thousand near the end of May.
One concern of watermen and scientists alike was the strong algae blooms that occurred this year. Strongly centered in the Choptank, Patuxent, and Potomac rivers, they were wider spread than normal and lasted for many weeks. Charter boat captains noted that these blooms occurred in many areas of the Bay and that they frequently had to go significant distances to avoid them. Scientists attribute the blooms primarily to strong rainfall and runoff into the Bay during the months following last year's drought conditions. These factors coupled with warming temperatures and sunlight have caused the blooms to expand rapidly. Crab harvest was reduced in the areas affected by these tides but State officials were hopeful that this would end before summer.
Many soft crab producers took advantage of the winter months to redesign and update their systems. New products on the market have made it easier to put together a high quality system that will increase survival and, hopefully, bottom line profits. Reconfigured protein skimmers have been a popular item. Research from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) has shown skimmers to be successful in removing dissolved organics from recirculation systems. Tank liners made of recycled plastics have been around now for a couple of years and seem to be taking hold as a way of renovating older shedding floats. New pumps have come onto the market and also have proven popular in the industry.
The key to success in the shedding industry continues to be system management. Peelers represent a substantial investment and operators cannot afford to have high mortality of their crabs. The only way to know what is happening in the system is to continually test the water and record the results. In this way, if a problem develops, it will be easier to locate the source and correct it. Several companies are involved in the business of water quality testing equipment and it is easy to find testing kits that fit the need. The LaMotte Company, located in Chestertown, Maryland, for example, has marketed a test kit combination designed for crab shedders for many years. Many watermen who have used these kits have become much better system operators. You wouldn't operate a boat without checking your gauges to see if you had oil pressure and proper coolant temperatures, so consider this the same with a shedding system as well. The more you know about how your system operates, the better you will become at running it.
For further information on shedding system management, contact your Sea Grant Extension Area Agent.
Crabmeat Processors File ITC Petition
Doug Lipton, Marine Economics Specialist
The future of the U.S. crabmeat industry will be greatly influenced by a decision late this summer of the International Trade Commission and, perhaps, the President of the United States. On March 2, 2000, the Blue Crab Coalition, a group of 27 U.S. producers of crabmeat from Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, filed a petition with the International Trade Commission alleging that the large increase in imports of crabmeat over the past several years is causing serious injury to the domestic crabmeat industry.
The ITC is no stranger to evaluating the effect of imports on the domestic seafood industry, and as recently as 1997 ruled that imports of crawfish tail meats from China were being imported at less than fair market value, injuring domestic crawfish producers.
Just three months after the petition filing, the staff of the ITC has completed a report on the issue. A major part of the report is developed from an extremely lengthy questionnaire that was mailed to all domestic crabmeat producers, and a similar questionnaire that was mailed to crabmeat importers. Sea Grant Extension Programs in affected states provided technical assistance to domestic producers and importers in filling out the questionnaires. This coordinated Sea Grant Extension effort resulted in an excellent response rate to the questionnaire, enabling the ITC staff to have a good foundation for their analysis. For domestic producers, 187 questionnaires were mailed, 91 were returned and 74 provided usable data for analysis. These 74 firms are estimated to represent 86 percent of the crabmeat production. Thus, many of the smaller family-run producers did not take the time to complete a survey form estimated to take 50 hours to complete.
The ITC Commissioners will use the staff report, coupled with testimony provided on June 15th by the domestic industry and importers to determine if imports are a substantial cause of injury to domestic producers. The determination of whether imports are causing substantial injury is expected around mid-July. If the determination is positive, then a hearing will be held at the end of July on the suggested remedy such as tariffs, quotas or other industry assistance. The Commission will then vote on the suggested remedy by the end of August. On August 29, 2000, the Commission's recommendations and findings are then sent to the President of the United States for action.
While most domestic crabmeat processors would like to see some kind of restraint placed on imports, they realize the petition with the ITC is an uncertain process. At the same time that they were going forward with the petition, the processors have gotten together to form the Blue Crab Marketing Alliance (BCMA). BCMA has developed a logo that will identify product in the container to be 100 percent blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) that has been picked domestically, and except for claw meat which uses a brine flotation process to separate the shell from the meat, the product will contain no additives or preservatives. To obtain the logo and become a member of the Alliance, processors will have to pay a fee ranging from $50-$250, depending on sales volume. The BCMA will use these funds, in coordination with state seafood marketing programs, to advertise and market blue crabmeat. (For further background on the crabmeat import issue see the Fall, 1998 issue of Maryland Aquafarmer.)
Editor's Note: As Maryland Aquafarmer was going to press, members of the International Trade Commission met and voted on the petition presented by domestic crabmeat processors. By a vote of 4-2 the Commissioners denied the petition, effectively ending the process and eliminating the possibility that either tariffs or quotas will be placed on imported crabmeat. Industry marketing efforts will continue, and domestic processors will be seeking other means to support their marketing efforts.
Crop Insurance Spurs Clam Industry in Pilot Program
Don Webster, Eastern Shore Marine Agent
During the Aquaculture America conference held in February, one of the meetings organized by Extension specialists dealt with a new pilot crop insurance program targeted at hard clam growers. Speakers from several of the producing states gave summaries concerning their roles in the program and how it had affected their producers. The outcomes of the program have shown that this form of business assistance can go a long way in helping to spur development of an aquaculture species.
The Federal Crop Insurance Reform Act of 1994 allowed the Risk Management Agency (RMA) of USDA to target specialty crops for assistance. The hard clam industry, a healthy and expanding part of the shellfish aquaculture industry, requested several Extension specialists to help them develop a similar program for their product. As a pilot program, the coverage cannot be more than about 20 percent of the total farmers in the industry, and the program can only be made available on a county by county basis while still in this stage. Underwriting is done by private commercial insurers, with their coverage guaranteed by the U.S. government, making the program essentially risk free for the insurers.
In Massachusetts, there are currently forty-eight policies which have been written by two insureres. These policies cover municipal restoration as well as private growers since this comprises an important part of the New England industry. A Sea Grant specialist helped to provide technical information on survival and growth that helped insurers develop their ratings for different growing areas. Risk is related to factors such as disease, wind, and ice, which affect survival of the clams. The specialists also helped the RMA develop a protocol to evaluate clam stocks on open flat plantings and helped facilitate meetings between the organization and the growers.
Virginia is included in the pilot program because of large production, coming primarily from the Eastern Shore. Of the 100-125 active clam growers, about half have opted to join the program. Many Old Dominion clam growers produce on a cooperative basis for hatcheries. Determining who actually owned the product and therefore who needed to have the policy in force provided a special problem. After discussion and legal review, it was decided that the individual clam growers would hold the policies with a power of attorney given to the coop owner and the premium paid proportionally to the amount of the product owned by each.
About 75-80 percent of South Carolina producers are involved in the program, with about 95 percent of 10 mm clams covered. While some farmers were concerned that coverage might tend to flood the market by encouraging production, this does not seem to have been the case. There was also some concern on the part of South Carolina clam farmers who raise product in more than one county, since the program is currently limited geographically.
Florida, one of the biggest production areas for hard clams, also worked hard to get the word out to its farmers. Clams in land based nursery systems are not covered under this program but clams planted on the grounds are. Since there are various culture methods in use in each area, Sea Grant people worked with the RMA to ensure that all facets of the industry were covered. In all, 235 growers and seven insurance companies in seven counties in Florida became involved with the program. One of the greatest concerns voiced by the farmers was how to develop sampling protocols to take into account the rotation of the crop through the grounds. Sea Grant specialists were able to work with all parties to come to an agreed solution.
Under the Crop Insurance Program, there must be notification of a loss within 72 hours of an event (for instance low dissolved oxygen resulting in anoxia and suffocation of the animals). The program does not cover mortality resulting exclusively from elevated water temperatures. There must be an effective sampling protocol so that insurers can be satisfied the inventory is actually present on the grounds. This pilot program has helped to alleviate much of the uncertainty that exists in the shellfish aquaculture field. Producers are also finding that it has helped them to secure loans for future operating and expansion plans, since banks are very conservative when loaning money for crops that they cannot usually see.
This federally insured pilot crop insurance program is another example of how application of existing agricultural programs may help the aquaculture industry to build. It also points out the importance of accurate and honest record keeping in business. If production records had not been available for the RMA and the insurers to use to predict survival and to base actuarial numbers on, there would be no program in effect today. Others who wish to see this program expanded would be well advised to develop records of production in their areas.
Managing Ponds: Algae Control in Summer
Dan Terlizzi, Sea Grant Water Quality Specialist
Algae management is the most challenging problem facing pond owners - especially dealing with the large clumps of mat-forming algae that occur in summer. It doesn't matter whether you are dealing with a small backyard ornamental pond or a one-acre farm pond the result is the same - unsightly mats covering the pond surface and interfering with recreational and production uses. One aspect of algae control in ponds is prevention. Through the maintenance of adequate alkalinity and pH by liming the pond, along with aeration to prevent stratification, a decrease in pond algae problems may be observed. However, regardless of the preventive measures a pond owner uses, algae problems can occur and it is important that they be managed to prevent related problems like fish mortality.
To begin with you should be using preventive measures to reduce the severity of summer aquatic weed problems. This includes liming, aeration and one of the most commonly recommended strategies for the prevention of nuisance algae formation - fertilization. The principle behind fertilization is that by applying nutrients to a pond we stimulate the growth of microscopic algae called phytoplankton. Good blooms of phytoplankton "tie up" nutrients and create turbidity, which absorbs sunlight as it enters the pond. This shading by phytoplankton prevents light from reaching the nuisance or mat forming algae which usually begin as growth on the bottom of the pond.
Fertilization has some additional benefits in pond management. By providing increased nutrition for phytoplankton growth we provide more food energy for the rest of the pond food web, eventually leading to 200-400% increases of fish production. From an environmental perspective, this is "bottom up" management. Increasing production is desirable for pond owners managing for sport fishing or aquaculture production. However, in many other management situations fertilization may not be desirable. Ponds often function as nutrient sinks - as points of accumulation of nutrients from run off. In this region, most ponds have adequate fertility to support strong seasonal blooms of phytoplankton. The problem is that nutrient availability is seasonal - nutrients are usually in excess or short supply depending on the growth of phytoplankton. When the turbidity of a pond declines as a bloom subsides, nutrients and light are available for the growth of nuisance algae. This is when fertilization is often recommended and although application will stimulate phytoplankton growth, as soon as this bloom subsides and the phytoplankton are broken down, even more nutrients are available to support nuisance algae.
Another concern is that many commercial fertilizers for ponds contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in ratios (for example, NPK at 20:20:20) that are not appropriate to fresh water ponds. In the case of 20:20:20, we are supplying nitrogen and phosphorous at equal rates, whereas in most fresh water environments phosphorous is all that is necessary to stimulate phytoplankton growth. Recognizing this, many pond managers apply phosphate alone to increase phytoplankton growth. This is a more environmentally realistic approach but it still has the disadvantage that the fertilizer is applied as a single dose leading to a "boom or bust" pattern of phytoplankton growth.
A new product was recently introduced by Scotts that appears to eliminate many of the problems with freshwater pond fertilization. This formulation has an NPK ratio of 10:50:0 which provides a more favorable balance of phosphorous to nitrogen and eliminates the unnecessary addition of potassium. This product has also addressed the problem of nutrient availability by using time release granules that supply nitrogen and phosphorous throughout the growing season following a single spring application.This product was recently evaluated in experiments conducted at Auburn University by Dr. Claude Boyd and colleagues and appears to be a useful new tool in pond management
Mid summer is a good time to renew barley straw treatments for pond algae problems that were started in spring. The proposed inhibitor in barley straw does not appear to kill algae present in the pond at the time of application so early treatment before algae growth has gotten out of hand is advisable. The amount of barley straw required has not been fully evaluated. We have been reccomending 4-6 bales per pond surface acre which appears to be adequate based on reports we have received from trials in past years . It has been suggested that loose straw is more effective than tight bales; however the bales will be easier to handle and remove after a month or two in the water. With either loose straw or bales, an enclosure of poultry wire or plastic mesh should be used to simplify removal of the rotting straw. Remember that the straw must be replaced every two months throughout the summer algae season. (see "Algae Control with Barley Straw," Maryland Aquafarmer, www.mdsg.umd.edu/Extension/Aquafarmer/Winter98.html#4)
Inevitably, even the most meticulously managed pond will eventually have problems with mat forming algae. If you find mat algae developing in your pond in spite of your preventive measures, there are some control methods available. Copper treatment is the most widely used method; it is available for pond use either as "blue stone" (mineral copper sulfate) or as a "chelated" product called Cutrine. The chelated product is a bit more expensive but is thought to be more effective under some conditions. The major concern in copper application is potential toxicity to fish. Under low alkalinity conditions, copper can be lethal so it is important that ponds be adequately limed. Generally an alkalinity level of at least 50 ppm (ppm is parts per million or milligrams per liter) should be present before copper application. Test kits are available to determine the alkalinity of a pond. The type used for swimming pools is fine as long as you can determine the total alkalinity within 10 ppm accuracy. If after testing you find that your alkalinity is low, liming is necessary to raise the alkalinity. (see "Liming Aquaculture and Fish Ponds in Maryland," www.mdsg.umd.edu/Extension/finfish/FF7.html).
There are two methods for copper treatment. The most common method involves treating the entire pond with copper. The disadvantage here is that in addition to controlling the mat algae the copper kills microscopic algae that provide food for other pond life and are responsible for oxygenating the water. Sometimes this approach is necessary and typically 1.3 lb/acre-foot of water is applied at an alkalinity of 50 ppm. Application rates and the procedure for calculating acre-feet is included on the label of copper products. For example, a one acre pond with an average depth of 3 feet would have a total of 3 acre-feet and would need about 3.9 lbs of copper sulfate if the alkalinity was 50 ppm. Another method that will provide effective control of mat algae with minimal risk to fish is spray application. Instructions for this method are also on the label of copper products. Basically, copper sulfate is dissolved in water and applied to algae mats in a plastic garden pump sprayer. This targeted application made at weekly interval as new mats develop is effective with minimal copper use. One precaution is that when ponds are heavily covered with algae, only a quarter of the pond should be treated at a time. Too much algae decomposing in the pond can lead to oxygen depletion and fish death.
When prevention methods like liming, aeration and barley straw fail to completely eliminate algae problems in your pond, direct control using copper either as "bluestone" or in the chelated form will usually solve the problem. Remember to calculate the size of your pond accurately and be sure that you have adequate alkalinity; in this way, you can maintain a clean pond and a healthy population of fish.
For Maryland Sea Grant Extension Fact Sheets see: www.mdsg.umd.edu/Extension/index.html.
- East Coast Live! 2000: The Business of Marketing Live Aquatic Products
Annapolis, Maryland, November 1-4, 2000
The transport and sale of live aquatic products is a growth industry nationwide – such products include hundreds of species or varieties of marine and freshwater fish, shellfish and aquatic plants. Growth of the industry has brought with it challenges, opportunities and problems, which East Coast Live! 2000 will address.
A concurrent trade show will bring together suppliers to the industry, airline representatives, state, regional and federal agencies and other businesses relevant to the live aquatics industry.
Wednesday, November 1
Noon-7:00 pm - Registration and Reception
Thursday, November 2
8:30 am-Noon - Profiles of the East Coast Live Aquatics Industry
1:30-2:30 pm - Social, Ethical and Humanitarian Issues
3:00-4:40 pm - Handling, Inventory and Distribution Methods
Friday, November 3
8:30-10:00 am - Regulatory Issues Affecting the Live Aquatics Industry
11:00 am-Noon - Marketing Live Seafood
1:20-4:50 pm - Concurrent Sessions
1: Finfish/Ornamentals and Aquatic Plants
3: Animal Welfare and the Live Aquatics Industry
Saturday, November 4
8:00 am-5:00 pm - Tours
1: Biotechnology/Live Seafood
2: Ornamental Plants and Animals
3: Live Seafood/Restaurant
Registration fee:$175 until August 31 and $195 afterwards. Registration for one day: $75 until August 31 and $90 afterwards.
For registration information, contact Don Webster, Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program, email@example.com. For program and trade show information, contact John Ewart, Delaware Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can register via the web and get more detailed information and updates at www.eastcoastlive.seagrant.org.
- Pennsylvania Aquaculture Conference: Adding Value through Marketing
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, October 2-3, 2000
Organized by the Agriculture Advisory Committee of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, this agriculture development and marketing conference and trade show will explore a broad variety of topics including: Marketing Aquaculture Food Products, Species for Aquaculture, Aquaculture E-Sales, Production and Market Planning fo Start-up Operations, Trout Production, Producing Striped Bass in Farm Ponds, and more.
For information, contact Leo Dunn, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Bureau of Market Development, Aquaculture Office, Room 308, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17110-9408, phone (717) 783-8462, fax: (717) 787-1858, e-mail: email@example.com, www.state.pa.us/PA_Exec/Agriculture/bureaus/market_development/aquaculture/.
- Fourth International Conference on Shellfish Restorations
Hilton Head, South Carolina, November 15-18, 2000
Throughout the world, there is a growing commitment to restoration of degraded coastal ecosystems. This conference will explore the successes and challenges of shellfish restoration, focusing on how public/private partnerships have been enhancing these capabilities. Sessions will be organized around three themes:
- Shellfish Resource Habitat Management, Enhancement, and Restoration;
- Shellfish/Habitat Restoration through Coastal and Watershed Management; and
- Community-based Strategies to Restore Shellfish/Habitat.
For more information about participating, contact Elaine Knight at 843-727-2078 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about submitting an abstract, contact Rick DeVoe at 843-727-2078 or email@example.com.
- Open Ocean Aquaculture IV: An International Symposium
New Brunswick, Canada, June 18-19, 2001
Open Ocean Aquaculture (OOA) IV invites presentations and discussion of the sustainable development - economic, social and environmental - of a truly open ocean aquaculture industry. The fourth symposium will convene for the first time internationally, in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, Canada. Theme sessions include:
- Marine Policy: marine policy and regulatory challenges.
- Ocean Engineering: cage designe, feeding systems, mooring options and other logistical issues.
- Candidate Species for Offshore Aquaculture.
- Ocean Environmental: methodology and results of monitoring aquaculture impacts.
- Integrated Open Ocean Aquaculture: Practices to increase economic viability with fish, shellfish, seaweeds, sea urchings and innovative biotechnology integration.
For further information, see www.masgc.org/oac/ooa_iv.html.
Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program
Phone Numbers And E-Mail Addresses
Agents and specialists of the University of Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program are available online through the following addresses: