The aim of this project is to design and develop a prototype machine to de-shell and de-vein prawns, to ultimately reduce labour requirements and costs in the seafood processing industry.
As the UK consumer switches to a more sustainable and healthy diet, the consumption of warm-water prawns is on the increase. This means that businesses like Seafresh have seen significant increases in their product ranges and production volumes year-on-year. As an experienced supplier in the industry, Seafresh have seen the rapid rise in demand as well as the steady increase in processing costs at their facilities around the world. This increase in cost has been met with a reduction in the available labour supply as more people are choosing not to work in aquaculture but to move to technology-driven jobs. This means the industry is met with an increasing demand, increasing cost and reducing supply. To ensure that the warm-water prawn industry remains stable, Seafresh are seeking to automate one of the most challenging and manually dexterous processes which is de-shelling and de-veining.
Automation of a biological material is always a complex one; robotics do not have the dexterity of humans and so this highly precise and dextrous task presented an engineering challenge.
By trialling and mimicking basic gestures required in the task, hand trials soon developed to a manual rig, with restricted human intervention. The results have been positive, especially in the area of de-veining the prawns.
The height of retrieving the vein is crucial and the method in which the vein is removed is a highly complex one. However, the MTC design team have overcome this to produce a repetitive and reliable methodology with a proven success rate well over 80% of trialled materials.
The future for automating the de-veining of a warm water prawn is close and the natural next step of the process, with the potential to bring relief to labour across the globe.
The Manufacturing Technology Centre