PORTLAND, MAINE — A start-up company in Maine is developing a children's bandage coated with a substance extracted from crushed lobster shells that would promote blood-clotting and is resistant to bacterial infection.
The company, Lobster Tough LLC, shipped Maine lobster shells to a processor in Iceland for testing, and so far, the results are promising, said Thor Sigfusson, an Icelandic investor in the company.
Lobster shells usually end up in landfills after the meat is removed, he said. Using lobster shells to create a medical product would create more value for lobsters and boost the industry in Maine, he said.
"My dream will be to use the massive amounts of lobster shells that are being thrown into dumpsters," he said.
Chitosan, the blood-clotting compound, is currently produced industrially by crushing shrimp shells and washing the solids with acids to remove inorganic materials and proteins. The U.S. Army has used field bandages treated with chitosan processed from shrimp shells.
The Maine lobster shells would be shipped from Portland to Iceland for processing.
The lobster shells must be dehydrated to remove weight and lower shipping costs. Lobster Tough this winter is shipping a portable dehydration machine from Iceland to Maine. The company eventually plans to build a $2 million dehydration plant somewhere on the Maine coast, said Patrick Arnold, an investor who lives in South Portland.
The goal is to introduce the bandages to the U.S. market in 2017, he said.
Maine is known for its pristine environment and sustainable lobster industry, Arnold said. That reputation will help sell the bandages, which will feature cartoon images of lobsters on its packaging.
"The storyline and traceability of the product is important," he said.
The bandages would be the first commercial product developed through the New England Ocean Cluster, a new business incubator in Portland.