The processing of the Western Rock Lobster creates lobster heads as a by-product, which is an under-utilised resource often in surplus and disposed into landfill. Such disposal incurs a significant cost penalty to the industry, approximately $1M per year. Around 15% of lobster shell is chitin, which is one of nature’s most fundamental compounds, similar to starch and cellulose. Chitin is a long-chain polymer that can be broken down into chitosan (market value approximately $40/kg), and reduced further into glucosamine (market value approximately $500/kg). Chitin products derived from the Australian rocklobster have very unique characteristics that enable an enormous range of applications in medical, pharmaceutical and food manufacturing, and elsewhere. At The University of Western Australia we are developing patentable benign process technology to extract chitin from lobster shells, which will have minimal ecological footprint. This process technology will in turn enable a sustainable supply of ultra pure chitosan and glucosamine. A recent investigation, funded by the Pathfinder Programme (The University of Western Australia) and WRLDA has identified potential markets for chitosan and glucosamine and the business plan predicts marketing of the producs will create a business worth of $8 Million over three years of operation. This is an opportunity for the rocklobster industry to eliminate the waste and to create new market opportunities. The challenge is to transform a laboratory-scale invention into a commercial-scale venture that converts a surplus by-product currently treated as waste into compounds suitable for high value added technologies.
Project number: 2006-211
Budget expenditure: $110,846.37
Principal Investigator: Colin L. Raston
Organisation: University of Western Australia (UWA)
Project start/end date: 29 Sep 2006 - 28 Jul 2008
1. Characterise and optimise the laboratory synthesis of various chitosans and glucosamine produced using novel benign chemistry techniques, beyond preliminary results that demonstrate the feasibility of the project.
2. Bench mark the quality of the chitosans and glucosamine produced, against international standards recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), as premium grade prodcuts.
3. Scope out a laboratory scale-up process suitable for processing multi-tonne quantities of rock lobster waste, in association with a commercial partner, and thus objectives 1 and 2 are the main aims of the project funded by FRDC.