The winner of last year’s Lobster Bait Challenge in Nova Scotia anticipates being in commercial production by this fall providing an alternate bait source for the industry.
Clare Machine Works, represented by Vince Stuart, took the $30,000 prize for the challenge, which was supported by the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and led by industry in conjunction with ACOA, Western Regional Enterprise Network, Perennia and Ignite Labs. Participants who pitched their ideas had them tested in at-sea trials by the Coldwater Lobster Association, between August and November of 2019.
“The Lobster Bait Challenge last year was about building an alternative bait for the lobster industry; one that would maximize the use of seafood by-products, be sustainable, and meet market demand,” said Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell.
“Mr. Stuart demonstrated an inventive effort that highlighted the success of this innovation challenge. As a result of their Lobster Bait Challenge victory, Clare Machine Works has an interest in licensing its product and shows interest in further development of bait and devices for bait while its partners have shown an increase in bait sales. Our department believes The Lobster Bait Challenge has helped to further develop a culture of entrepreneurship which is very important in this industry and in all areas of rural Nova Scotia.”
Since winning the challenge, “we haven’t relented,” said Stuart in an interview. “We’re doing a whole lot of work” including testing at sea, scientific research in the lab as well as product development.
Product testing and developing was done throughout the winter and spring in LFA 34 and in late May began on the eastern shore, where a few of the fishermen are doing trials with samples handed out by Stuart.
Over 300,000 pounds of bait has been delivered and tested so far, said Stuart. “Things look positive. It looks promising. I think it’s going to be affordable. The plan is to use less resource. I would anticipate we will be in commercial production by fall for the big season.”
For Clare Machine Works, its focus is on automation development: how to deliver the product mechanically or automated, said Stuart. “It’s what we call an auto bagger, but it will be producing mechanically bagged bait bags with various and different formulations of our bait… Our focus is on delivering products and licencing products in order to deliver this bait in different fashions; bagging, slow release, different mechanical devices. That is what we’re working on.”
What is in the bait is proprietary information, said Stuart. “We’re not in the bait business and never will be,” he said. “The actual bait, we leave that to the bait people, so anybody in the bait business is a potential partner. We have three partners right now that are remaining anonymous for now.”
Stuart said the biggest thing they needed to do was make sure the bait didn’t adversely affect the lobsters.
“We did some science work with the Université Sainte-Anne Marine Research Centre. We had a control group there working under scientific parameters who investigated how the lobster reacted to the bait we provided. How they processed it, made sure it was digested well and the lobsters were all happy with it.”
Stuart said he is also hoping to be able to connect with some P.E.I. fishermen this summer but COVID-19 “makes it tough to move around and do different sequences with the seasons” that are open “so we’re hunkered down a bit.”
Clare Machine Works is located in Meteghan, Digby County.