2008/910 Automation of Western Rock Lobster processing
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2008/910 Automation of Western Rock Lobster processing


By Glen Davidson


Automation of processing is widespread in many food production industries. Currently, labour costs in the Western Rocklobster industry are high and availability of labour is extremely poor. This is especially problematic given the processing of Western Rocklobsters is a highly manual process. Individual lobsters can be handled up to seven times from the point of receival to the finished product form. Reducing labour by mechanising process steps may improve process (and product) consistency and profitability and reduce dependence on large numbers of casual, untrained, itinerant workers required for only short periods at a time. This study investigates options for automating processing of frozen rock lobster products, in particular colour grading; washing of cooked lobsters; and wrapping of tails.

Whilst colour grading was found to be problematic, automated methods of washing of whole cooked and wrapping of tails were found to be applicable in the commercial environment.  Basic cost/benefit analyses show that there were potential commercial advantages to automation of washing and tail wrapping under the industry conditions that prevailed when this project was proposed. However, recent changes in the management of the Western Rocklobster industry have resulted in dramatic reductions in the scale of frozen production.  As a result, the commercial argument for automation of processing has been weakened greatly