How did we come up with the idea for Lobster Pod?
February 9, 2016
We are often asked how we came up with the idea for a live shellfish storage and transport system.
The ideas, motivation and Eureka moment behind Lobster Pod….
The initial idea for a shellfish transport system came about as the potential solution to a big problem faced by shellfish fishermen and merchants. We (my husband, marine biologist Dr Keith Todd and I) have been working alongside fishermen for over forty years combined. We knew from this experience that one of the big challenges was getting the fantastic quality of shellfish to market, not just alive but thriving. There is no market for dead shellfish. The better the quality, the higher the price that can be achieved. Fishermen and merchants want to get a reputation for catching and selling excellent quality shellfish.
From our initial research we were surprised to find that an average of 15% of all shellfish dies during transportation. And in many cases this was after it had been graded or held in keeps or storage for a while first. We heard horror stories from every person we spoke to of complete wipe outs. This meant the fishermen would catch more to fulfill orders. Currently merchants use one big tank or vivier with limited filtration fixed to the HGV trailer. This leads to the bad apple effect as stock is degrading in quality as soon as it is loaded. Many of the merchants had invested large sums of money in holding systems to store and condition the shellfish prior to transportation. Some of the merchants processed the meat as it was too hard to export live. We have world class seafood all around the UK but we are not making the most of it.
Keith started by thinking about the biology of the animals. Think about when a lobster is happiest? In it’s own, dark, roomy burrow with no predators and plenty of food nearby and a good supply of fresh, cool, oxygenated water. All we had to do was re-create this. So instead of one large vivier tank or pallet tank our shellfish goes into customised fish boxes. No crushing or scary tank mates. The box can be graded and filled on the boat and move from storage to vehicle meaning limited handling. The water is chilled, filtered and oxygenated ensuring optimum water conditions for the animals. The boxes go into the Pod so they are nice and dark and secure.
The final challenge was to get the palletised Lobster Pod light enough so it could carry stock, not large volumes of water and save fuel and carbon emissions also. We went for an inspiring walk along a Scottish beach on a dreich morning. We heard the crabs in the seaweed clicking. A storm had swept the sea up and the water was brown, swirling and foamy. The crabs had come out of the water and were keeping their gills damp in the mist so they could breathe oxygen out of the air. When they do this they slow their metabolism (so they are nice and calm) and do not produce any waste. Eureka! By re-creating this misty Scottish morning in the Lobster Pod the animals are happy and calm and as a bonus no ammonia or waste. We only need 400 litres of water for every 1 tonne of shellfish compared to the tonnes of water currently needed per tonne of shellfish. This controlled atmosphere system which can be operated flooded, as a sprinkler or on mist mode is the ‘clever bit’.
It has taken us a while to perfect the design and then test, trial and improve it. We’ve applied for all of the international patents and IPR relating to the new invention of the Lobster Pod. We can’t wait to tell you more about our customers and how the Lobster Pod is helping them to improve their business.
Sea-E-O and Founder