A Fife family business hopes to double sales to £1m over the next two years as it rolls out a novel shellfish storage system that it believes will revolutionise the fishing industry.
Todd Fish Tech, based in Dalgety Bay, has patented its ‘Lobster Pod’ product, which increases the survival rate of landed lobsters, crab and langoustine from one or two days to up to six months.
“Most seafood is transported by road haulage and for every lorry load of lobster, there’s a 15 per cent mortality rate,” explains chief executive Errin Todd, who runs Todd Fish Tech with her husband Keith Todd, a marine biologist.
“That equates to £12,000 of shellfish. It’s not good for sustainability, it’s not good for the lobster and it’s not good for the reputation of Scotland. Fishermen aren’t paid for dead lobster, so it’s very wasteful. Things haven’t evolved since 1970 when Britain started exporting shellfish. So we looked at the design of the current method and decided to make the Lobster Pod.”
Instead of storing lobster in polystyrene trays or heavy tanks of water, the shellfish are stored in individual plastic palettes with chilled and filtered water. These reduce stress and damage and helps keep the animals happy and healthy.
To transport the shellfish, the water is drained and replaced with a patented misting system that provides optimum conditions for the shellfish. In tests, the system has increased the survival rate of shellfish during transit to over 99% from an industry average of 85%.
“The old system used two tons of water for every ton of shellfish being transported,” Todd adds. “Our system uses under 100 litres of water for every ton of shellfish. In haulage terms, the load is lighter so uses less fuel. You can also use the full height of the lorry to stack the lobster trays. It saves 590 kilograms of carbon emissions for every journey from Glasgow to Barcelona.”
Other spin-off benefits include more money for fishermen and less risk – by removing the need to go out in bad weather if stored shellfish can be sold instead.
“Shellfish prices can go up and down from £8 a kilo to £34 a kilo depending on the time of year,” Todd explains. “So fishermen can triple or quadruple the money they make from lobster by storing them for up to six months and selling them at Christmas or January rather than during the summer months of the fishing season when shellfish are abundant.”
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Todd also argues that more shellfish could be sold locally in Scotland, instead of fresh catches being immediately exported.
“Eighty five per cent of Scottish shellfish is exported to Europe, where it is prized for its great quality,” she says. “Because it can’t be kept alive, it needs to enter the supply chain quickly, and it sometimes goes through five or eight steps before it reaches the consumer’s plate. With our system, there’s more incentive for fishermen to supply local restaurants, tourists and the public because a shorter supply chain means a higher price for the fisherman. That means we can eat more shellfish here in the UK”
The Todds started selling the Lobster Pod in 2015 and expect to double sales this year from £250,000 to £500,000. Their aim is to reach £1m sales by 2020 and to start exporting to North America and Canada, where the shellfish market is more than ten times the size of Britain’s.
The worldwide market for lobster, crab, prawns, scallop and other shellfish species is estimated to be worth more than $40 billion and growing.
Todd Fish Tech’s other products include lobster hatcheries that increase the survival rate of baby lobsters 100,000-fold – from one in 10,000 to 11 in every 100.
“Only one in 10,000 baby lobsters makes it to adulthood in the wild because the larvae end up in plankton and are then eaten,” Todd explains.
The couple assemble the lobster pods in-house and run the business with fish tech engineer Laura Johnson, a marine biology graduate from the University of Glasgow.