Just when you think you’ve heard it all, some researcher comes out with a crazy idea that actually ends up being pretty amazing. For example, have you ever heard of medical wearables for lobsters? They are real thing. And in fact, the researchers developing them hope that the new sensors will improve the lobster supply chain in Maine.
Medical wearables for lobsters may seem strange, but consider this: fishermen constantly worry about the health of their lobsters between the time they are caught and the time they are delivered to restaurants and supermarkets. Fishermen and distributors alike do not get paid when they deliver dead or unhealthy lobsters. So it is to their advantage to do whatever they can to prevent potential health issues.
Survival Equals Profitability
Maine is known for two things: its beautiful coastline and its thriving lobster industry. To fishermen, survival equals profitability. They need each and every lobster to be alive and healthy upon delivery to maximize their profits. So they have turned to science to help their cause.
According to Lobster Institute director Rick Wahle, representatives from Maine’s lobster industry asked the Institute to help them come up with ways to monitor lobster health so as to improve the supply chain. Monitoring lobster health during transport can help the industry develop ways to keep their daily catch safe until it reaches its final destination.
The Institute turned around and enlisted the help of Saint Joseph’s College and Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve on a nearly $300,000 project to develop a pair of miniature sensor devices. One of the devices measures a lobster’s heart rate while the other tracks movement. A third sensor was developed for the crates that lobsters are shipped in. It monitors temperature, oxygen levels, light, and other environmental conditions.
Understanding How Crustaceans Respond
Monitoring environmental conditions makes perfect sense. The better the shipping environment is controlled the more likely lobsters will arrive at their final destination alive and healthy. But what about the other two sensors? They were developed for a couple of reasons.
First, fishermen and distributors want to know how their lobsters are doing from end-to-end. In addition, researchers also want to know how crustaceans respond to the stresses of the shipping environment. Different animals respond differently, as evidenced by the differences in shipping horses and dogs.
If it turns out that lobsters are overly stressed by shipping, perhaps science can come up with ways to reduce that stress. Better lobster health would mean more volume with each delivery. It would also mean higher prices and profits.
Measuring and Analyzing Data
Wearable devices for lobsters are no different in principle than medical wearables for humans. At Rock West Solutions in Southern California, the same kinds of sensors they develop for healthcare can be adapted to the lobster industry. The real trick is measuring and analyzing the data sensors collect so it can be used in a quantifiable way.
Undoubtedly, the research team working on the lobster sensors have already spent a significant amount of time learning what data they need to collect. They will spend more time learning how to analyze that data in order to improve the outcome for the lobsters. It is all in a day’s work for engineers whose livelihoods depend on sensor development and signal processing.
Yes, medical sensors for lobsters are a real thing. They might not yet be ready for prime time, but they are well on their way. Once they reach production, the sensors will hopefully improve the quality of Maine’s lobster supply chain. Seafood lovers are sure to like that.