Business/Economy

Company uses crab shells from Alaska to help cut environmental chemicals

Most people are unaware that the yarns and fabrics that make up our carpets, clothing, car seats, mattresses, even mop heads are coated with chemicals and metals such as copper, silver and aluminum that act as fire retardants, odor preventers, antifungals and antimicrobials. Now, crab shells from Alaska are providing the same safeguards in a bio-friendly way.

The metals and chemicals are being replaced by all-natural Tidal-Tex liquid treatments derived from chitosan molecules found in the exoskeletons of crab shells.

The bioshift stems from a partnership between Leigh Fibers of South Carolina and Tidal Vision, the proprietary maker of the crab-based products that it began making in a 20-foot van in Juneau six years ago. The company, which now operates near Seattle and has 22 full-time employees in three production facilities, expects to put up to 60 people to work within two years.

[How former Juneau residents grew Tidal Vision out of crab shells]

In July, Tidal Vision opened its newest facility within Leigh Fibers’ headquarters, bringing its earth-friendly technology into the heart of the U.S. textile industry. Leigh Fibers is one of North America’s largest textile waste and byproduct reprocessing businesses, dating to 1866 and now servicing 25 countries.

“Partnering with Tidal Vision is a win-win for our company, our customers, and the environment,” said Eric Westgate, senior vice president. “Their Tidal-Tex product line delivers the key benefits that our customers look for in textiles at a lower price and is made from sustainable materials in the USA. At Leigh Fibers, we’re committed to advancing sustainable innovation and repurposing textiles for a cleaner, healthier planet.”

Said Tidal Vision CEO Craig Kasberg: “Having a partnership with Leigh Fibers was really strategically advantageous for us because they produce the fibers that then get turned into yarns that then get turned into all sorts of woven or non-woven textiles for everything from the automobile industry to the carpet industry to the acoustic sound insulation industry to the mop head industry to the furniture industry. They are at the top of the supply chain and treating those fibers was the easiest way to have the biggest impact in the textile industry.”

Most of the raw product comes from snow crab and red king crab delivered to St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea, where they are processed into frozen leg clusters. The shells are transported to the mainland, where they are put through Tidal Vision’s zero waste, proprietary extraction process that produces chitosan in a flake form and is then made into the ready-to-use liquid Tidal-Tex product.

Kasberg said it provides the same fabric protections as the manmade agents at far less cost.

“Our costs are minimal. They’re basically just tied to the logistics and some of the freezer storage costs but it’s nearly a free input material,” he said.

All crustaceans have chitosan, a polysaccharide that is the second most abundant organic compound in the world next to cellulose. Because of its unique molecular makeup, Kasberg calls it a “turnkey chemistry solution” to displace often toxic synthetic methods.

“All these heavy metals need to be mined and refined, and then modified into these metal based chemicals. Whereas we’re taking an abundant and even problematic byproduct from the seafood industry and with a really low cost extraction method, producing a biochemistry solution that can provide the same properties in these industries. Our inputs are tied to a byproduct,” Kasberg said.

Tidal Vision has tested a lot of crustacean “inputs,” Kasberg said, but Alaska crab shells pack the best chitosan punch.

“The starting molecular weight of the chitosan is higher,” he said.

Tidal Vision hopes to build more partnerships and expand to other countries within the next few years.

The company also features a line of other chitosan-based products including water clarifiers and a game animal spray that prevents spoilage and keeps insects away.

“Our goal as a company is to create positive and systemic environmental impacts with our chitosan technologies,” Kasberg said. “We’re still on the ground floor of Tidal Vision’s potential today.”

Seafood scholarships - Scholarships are being offered to small and medium-sized seafood businesses to help shape and launch a new National Seafood Council. Its mission is straightforward: to provide a unified voice for the industry to encourage Americans to eat more seafood.

A task force was formed in April 2021 led by the Seafood Nutrition Partnership to get things underway.

“Some of the tasks include designing the governance of the National Seafood Council and the makeup and responsibilities of the board members. We want to make sure that the task force is representative of size of companies, gender, geography around the U.S. and points all along the supply chain,” said Linda Cornish, SNP president.

Nominations are wanted from six to eight seafood related companies whose annual revenue is less than $20 million. The scholarships, backed by the Walton Family Foundation, will be based on those revenues multiplied by .00025, or a minimum of $2,500.

A National Seafood Council was created in 1987 as part of a Fish and Seafood Promotion Act but fizzled after five years. In May 2021 a group of over 60 U.S. fishing companies, groups and medical professionals asked Congress to provide $25 million in seed money to revive the group to develop a national seafood marketing and education program. The seafood council would eventually become industry funded, similar to other food industries.

“Seafood is probably one of the healthiest foods that people can eat and there’s just not enough funding to get that message out,” Cornish said. “The milk industry has about $300 million a year to market their product, pork about $70 million a year, avocados about $50 million. Seafood doesn’t have that. So for us to tell our story to the consumers in a more cohesive and unified way, we need some help to get this council started, and provide that resource to have a marketing campaign to do the same as other food groups have.”

Cornish said the idea has been well received in Congress.

“Right now we’re looking for some champions in Congress to spearhead that request on this group’s behalf,” she added. “There’s a lot of priorities being discussed on Capitol Hill and we need to make sure that the needs of this National Seafood Council are heard by Congress.”

Americans overwhelmingly turned to seafood during the COVID pandemic, and Cornish said the time is right to advance the health message.

“We’re still fighting this COVID-19 pandemic and seafood supports immune health and also is great for brain development and heart health,” she said. “I think the industry is ready to work together in a more collaborative way to get this unified message out to the consumers. And I really think we have the right window of time to do so.”

Eating seafood also tops the list in new U.S. dietary recommendations that Americans eat two servings per week, starting with kids at six months.

Deadline to apply for a task force scholarship is Aug. 13. Find links at seafoodnutrition.org

Bristol Bay breaks it! – The reds are still rolling in at Bristol Bay where a run topping 64 million has officially broken the record for all-time sockeye returns since 1893. The previous record was set in 2018 at 62.9 million fish.

“Large numbers can be hard to comprehend, so consider this,” wrote Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which is funded and operated by driftnet fishermen. “If lined up nose-to-tail, this year’s Bristol Bay sockeye run would stretch on for roughly 20,000 miles, enough to encircle all the lower 48 states … twice!”

It’s natural abundance on a truly epic scale, Wink added. “It’s important to highlight just how special the Bristol Bay salmon resource is. These records aren’t being set while overfishing. All escapement goals were met to propagate strong future runs. Despite all the bad news about environmental degradation and destruction, Bristol Bay is a shining example that healthy eco-systems can and still do still exist. It’s really an ecological treasure. We ask that state and federal government protect Bristol Bay salmon and the natural habitats that allow it to thrive.”

Processors have increased the base price at Bristol Bay to $1.25 per pound. At an average fish weight of 4.5 pounds and a catch so far at nearly 39.5 million fish, back-of-the-envelope calculations put the value of the sockeye haul to fishermen so far at over $222 million.

Bristol Bay sockeye currently represent 82% of the statewide sockeye landings of nearly 49 million and 56% of all salmon harvested so far across Alaska (80.4 million).

“The boats aren’t even dry yet and interest in Bristol Bay drift permits is beginning to trickle in. Permits are popping up for sale, with preliminary asking prices between $200,000 and $240,000,” said the Fish Ticket report by Alaska Boats & Permits in Homer.

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