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2020-01-27

Global Food Summit: Protein and natural antibiotics from lobster shells

Lobster, shrimps, crabs- its meat is considered a delicacy by many people. But during the preparation process residues remain, the hard, indigestible shells. Worldwide, between six and ten million tons of them are produced annually. Waste? Not at all. Rather, it is a valuable raw material that is still largely lost unused.

The young Canadian company Cigala Tech wants to produce protein for human consumption in addition to the coveted chitin, which can be used to make ink for 3D printers, for example. The company is also working on the production of the natural antibiotic COS, which is used specifically in pig fattening. This is particularly important in countries like Canada, where broad-spectrum antibiotics are banned in animal feed. Professor Thomas Brück from the Technical University of Munich plans to speak about new ways to raise this treasure at the next Global Food Summit in Munich in March.

Science and industry have long since recognized the value of the alleged waste. Until now, the main focus has been on extracting the chitin contained in high concentrations in the shells. In Asia, in particular, a chemical substance (polymer) is extracted from it, which is used, among other things, to manufacture filters, films, wound dressings and diet pills. CigalaTech Ltd, a company based in the eastern Canadian city of Charlottetown on the Atlantic coast, has now developed a new process with which the residues of shellfish can be recycled even more comprehensively and, above all, in an environmentally friendly manner than before.
The location was deliberately chosen because the region is home to more than half of the world's Atlantic lobster catch. Much of this is exported to Asia, already processed and packed in cans. A correspondingly large number of shells are produced in the process. A single company in the region produces around 4000 tons of shell waste per year.

The Vice President of CigalaTech is Professor Thomas Brück, who will provide new insights into the activities of his company at the Global Food Summit. Professor Brück rejects concerns of animal welfare activists that the improved use of lobster shells could create an increased demand and that the lobsters could be caught beyond the scope of stock protection. Closed seasons and fishing seasons are strictly regulated and strictly monitored in Canada, says Brück.

After studying chemistry, biochemistry and molecular medicine in Great Britain and the United States, the scientist initially worked in the biochemical industry. In 2011 he was appointed to the Werner von Siemens Chair of Synthetic Biotechnology at the Technical University of Munich. The chair is concerned with the design of sustainable biotechnological processes for the conversion of residual biomass into platform and specialty chemicals.