Canadian processors embrace new crab butchering robot

Published on
July 17, 2017

The world’s first fully automated crab butchering robot has has been installed in a plant in Newfoundland, Canada, according to a recent report from CBC News

The robot is housed in a tall, plastic chamber roughly the size of a shipping container, according to the report. It takes splayed full crabs and uses a blade to swiftly dismember them. Developed by the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation in partnership with the College of the North Atlantic, Ocean Choice International, and the Marine Institute, the robot can either cut crabs in half or remove their legs. 

Ultimately, the innovation allows for processors to extract meat more efficiently from crabs, a function capacity that is typically done overseas. The robot’s creators are hoping that the system will help to fill in workforce gaps spurred by Newfoundland’s changing demographics. 

“Younger people are not being attracted to the industry. A large part of the labor force in our processing sector now comes from the baby boomer generation. We can't replace those baby boomers with an equal number of younger people.” Bob Verge, managing director of the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation, told CBC News. "Technology] attracts those young people. It creates better, different jobs."

Greg Pretty, industrial director at the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union (FFAW), said the average age of a worker in Canada's seafood processing industry is around 55 years old. By including robots within its seafood processing facilities, the regional industry is hoping to attract more young people to the trade. 

"In instances where a company purchased a lot of machinery, we find while there is a displacement of actual labor, there is an increase of skilled trades," Pretty said. “Somebody has to maintain those machines. In that, there is also an increase in income for the individuals."

Meat extraction in Newfoundland and Labrador was once carried out by hand within local plants, but when the work became too expensive to manage, many of the area’s processors started shipping the area's catch overseas for meat removal. By bringing that part of the business back to Canada by way of the new robotic system, crab plant operators are hoping to make more money and earn more value for their resources and products.

“Instead sending our crab out as sections with meat in its shell, we can get a higher price if we sold the meat instead,” Verge said to CBC News.

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