Lobster 'recycling' project wins praise
As lobster dishes become more popular among seafood lovers, the amount of shells getting thrown away is enormous. After all, only about 30% of the entire lobster is edible -- the rest is their hard, inedible outer shell.
Seeing piles of lobster shells end up in the rubbish upset Montira Charoenwal, owner of a seafood restaurant. A scientist by training, she knew the shells are rich in astaxanthin, a carotenoid which gives microalgaes and the flesh of salmon and trout their reddish hue.
Astaxanthin has a wide range of benefits -- it can boost the immune system, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, as well as degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
In addition, the antioxidant can help improve fertility, eyesight, and bone composition, as lobster shells can contain as much as four times more calcium than cow's milk, said Ms Montira.
Driven by her disdain for seeing the valuable shells discarded as waste, Ms Montira launched a research project to find ways to make better use of the shells. The research is jointly carried out with Thammasat University's faculty of science and technology, under the supervision of Suteera Vatthanakul.
Their research was recently awarded a gold medal at Seoul International Invention Fair 2019 (SIIF 2019) in South Korea.
"We have found a way to extract astaxanthin and other bio-active compounds, phytochemicals as well as calcium from lobster shells while maintaining the flavour, aroma and taste of the lobster, by using a high technology extraction technique," she said.
Ms Montira said her research team has also come up with a product called "Lobster-Xanthine" -- an all-natural, lobster-flavoured seasoning powder made from real lobster shells.
"Our product is packed with calcium and antioxidants. The powder can be added directly to your food to enhance its flavour and nutrient content and is now available for purchase online via the Lob-Sa-Taaa Facebook page," she said.
"I'm really proud of winning this award as it showcases Thailand's innovation capability on the global stage," she told the Bangkok Post.
SIIF -- hosted by the Korean Intellectual Property Office and organised by the Korea Invention Promotion Association -- brings together inventors and researchers from all over the world in one event, allowing them to showcase new ideas and products to manufacturers, investors, distributors, licencing firms and the general public.
Last year, over 400 inventors and investors from 32 countries took part in the event.