Robotic Crab meat extraction to bring more revenue back to Canada

The world’s first full-on crab plant robot sits inside a tall, plastic chamber roughly the size of a shipping container. A conveyer belt carries the splayed crab into the chamber, where a robot scoops them up and places them on one of two plastic saddles.

The machine was designed to be a part of a robotic system that would extract the meat from the crab’s shells, a process which is often done overseas.

Its designers are also hoping it will solve a few workforce problems in fish plants caused by changing demographics in rural Newfoundland.

The meat extraction used to be done by hand in Newfoundland and Labrador plants, but the labour became too expensive.

The sections are now being sent overseas for meat extraction, where the labour is considerably cheaper.

Bringing that step back to Newfoundland plants would allow plant operators to make more money and get more value from the resource.

“The average age is about 55 years old now in seafood processing,” said Pretty. “To backfill those positions, it’s often difficult.”

Fish plant jobs are wet and cold, and they don’t pay much: maybe $15 or $16 an hour.

They’re also seasonal — the crab season is short, and plants need a lot of people for a short amount of time.

16 thoughts on “Robotic Crab meat extraction to bring more revenue back to Canada”

  1. Have all the soon to be ex-workers own a corporation that owns the robot then lease the robot to the crab plant operator

  2. Am I the only one who saw that pic and thought about acid blood spewing out and dissolving the robot?

  3. “Another brick in the wall”. Instead of raising the pay rate to encourage a person to do the job, they build a robot instead, and there goes the job, and this will happen over and over and over again, until… hello 50% unemployment. In 20 years maybe, but its coming.

    • person to do the job, they build a robot instead, and there goes the job,

      That isn’t how it works. Only when wages are high (labor wages high) does investments in automation happen. When labor is plentiful and thus cheap, that isn’t so.

      This is on a marginal scale if course. But in the aggregate, this is why productivity numbers collapsed during the Great Recession and didn’t recover during the low GDP Obama Malaise years.

      But now that GDP is growing more towards 3% per annum and continue to stay there or even does better in conjunction with the large Boomer retirements throughout this decade, labor scarcities will return and decrease the marginal oppurtunity cost of investing in more robots.

      And if the proposed full write off of cap ex investments like robots are in the tax reform survive the legislative process, massive investment into auromarion will take off even more so.

      • I eat a lot of crabs. Robot is going to miss a lot of meat unless the process relies on some kind of mechanical centrifugal separation like is used in “pink slime” or “finely textured meat.” The thing that will revive this industry is a fall of the North Korean government. This will saturate the market with experienced crab pickers willing to immigrate anywhere, even Newfoundland/Labrador.

        Crabs are lucky they are difficult to eat.

        People are lucky crabs don’t get as big as Labradors.

        • I think you’ve missed how much robotics has advanced in the last decade. There’s an excellent chance this crab picker robot will be very thorough.

          And, if there is a centrifugal separation step to get the last of the meat out, that can end up being fed into a kamaboko line, as flavoring. They’re not going to just crush the crabs and centrifuge them, that would be horribly wasteful.

          • What do crabs have reliable datum points or something? Looks pretty coarse already with the horror saw of death. You’ve eaten crabs right Brett? Takes about a hundred manipulations to eat one if you’re good. I agree mechanically separated crab would have many uses; could even make deli meat out of it.

            • Yes, I’ve eaten a lot of crab, except for that horrible 3 year stretch when I was under the mistaken impression I had a shellfish allergy. (When I finally shelled out the money to get tested, instead of just playing it safe, it turned out that I’d reacted to something unrelated in that meal.)

              You can probably get 90% of the meat out without much in the way of feedback, because crabs actually do have stereotypical anatomy. You’d just have to morph the program to fit the crab at hand, rather than make it up on the fly.

        • Maybe crab-meat is one those types of meats that can be grown in-vitro in the future, since we have to rip it up anyway to get it out of the crab.

        • Don’t mean to harm, but elevate. The plural of “crab” is “crab. The normal rules apply. If applied to the singular form, all adverbial choices reflect that choice. “I’m having crab tonight!” Could mean I’ve having a single crab, or may crab.

          “I had crab last night. It was delicious.”

          “The crab were out there, we just couldn’t find them.”

          This from a guy who believes the plural of goof is geefe.

    • Whatever the pay, and I’m sure you can always get someone to do the job if you pay enough, it must be a lousy job. You must get home every day stinking of fish. Now, people need jobs, unless we figure out a substitute, but I don’t know how tightly they would cleave to this particular one.

    • The problem is that they do not have a large population and the work is seasonal, with a short season. This means the processors are competing with year round industries for workers. It really isn’t an issue of just paying people more money. You also have to consider their processing costs have to be low enough for them to compete within this competitive global industry and still make a profit.

      Why not just pay them $50/hour? The company wouldn’t be able to compete and the price of their goods would be so high no one would buy them.

      It’s also interesting that the article says $15/hour isn’t a lot of money but that is what the anti-economy activists are trying to raise the minimum wage to in the USA. Its a bit of a tell that no matter what the minimum wage is, they will always demand laws to increase it. These activists would be better off checking out some econ books at the library or taking some online classes. Then they might be able to do something useful to help people by creating something rather than just wanting to take things from others.

Comments are closed.