Our February member’s meeting guest speaker was Robert (Bob) Lane. Bob is an Extension Specialist with the Virginia Seafood Agriculture Research and Extension Center which is a Virginia Cooperative Extension of Virginia Tech. He specializes in Engineering, Process Applications, Energy and Resource Management associated with seafood processing.
His presentation included a discussion of the various areas of seafood production from harvest to the consumer and some of the science and engineering that goes into each area. He touched on processing, shipping and storage validation, packaging to maintain the safety and quality of the product as well as the conservation, sustainability and efficiency of energy and water resources used in aquaculture.
Bob discussed several specific examples of engineering projects he has worked on in the seafood industry. One project was the validation of the thermal process used in cooking shrimp during processing to verify that appropriate temperatures are reached. He also described several engineering processes or methods that he used to validate the processes being used by a company that was processing blue crabs and another company that was attempting to use cryogenics to cool or freeze clams. While working with a fish farm on the eastern shore, Bob explained some alternative energy applications that were utilized. The company wanted to leave as small as possible environmental foot print. They wanted to know how they could run their business while minimizing energy use and water resources in a sustainable way. They determined that a combination of solar panels and a backup gas boiler could be used in the winter months for heat. A system utilizing a ground water cooling loop was devised to cool the water during the summer months. This allowed the company to maintain constant temperatures in their aquaculture tanks year round.
The presentation ended with a discussion on packaging design from several different points of view. In addition to safety, quality and labeling requirements, the packaging must consider integrity during processing, shipping and storage. Consideration must also be given to retailers, appeal to the consumer as well as determining if the packaging will be recyclable or not.