Coney Island Shellfish Ltd
Process Improvement in Oyster Farming
Automated oyster-handling machine
Coney Island Shellfish Ltd has been trading in the oyster consumer market since 2015, engaging in the production, processing, packaging and sales of oysters. The company strives for excellence through continuous improvement in quality and consistency of product, refining processes and increasing productivity through technical innovation.
It is because of this interest in technical innovation that Coney Island Shellfish Ltd approached I.T. Sligo and the PEM Gateway to design, develop and produce a working prototype of a novel automated oyster-handling machine.
Frill is a thin layer of shell which grows on oysters before hardening and thickening. The quality and size of farmed oysters is increased when this layer of frill is regularly broken off throughout its growth, as such a large amount of time spent farming oysters is dedicated to shaking them in their bags to break off this layer of frill.
Coney Island Shellfish, expressed the need for a product that would automate the process of shaking oyster bags, as the established method of hand-shaking the bags is a time consuming and inefficient process. This machine would speed up this process while relying on as little manpower as possible.
Currently, each 15kg bag of oysters must be turned and shaken by hand over the growing season to ensure oysters are separated from each other so that their shells do not fuse together. There are tens of thousands of bags requiring this procedure; and as a result, it is a time consuming and strenuous activity for Coney Island staff.
Coney Island Shellfish tasked us with designing a machine that could be driven by a tractor and would automate this process.
This was a research project that included academic staff and students in the development of the automated Oyster Handling Machine. The objectives of the product were laid out in a product design specification from which a list of aspects of the machine was created. Concept sketches were created to visualise how the different components would function. These were then expanded into a computer model of the machine using Solidworks. Analysis of the truss structure of the machine was carried out to determine the optimum placement of reinforcements
The working prototype that was developed is currently undergoing Beta Testing by Coney Island Shellfish. They have found it to fulfil the function of reducing the manual nature of the current oyster handling procedure for turning and shaking oyster bags. Coney Island Shellfish plan to refine some aspects of the machines function during Beta Testing to fully integrate it into their ongoing oyster producing process. When testing is finished, they will then galvanise the automated oyster-handling machine for corrosion resistance and ongoing use.
It was a valuable exercise for us to work with the PEM Gateway / IT Sligo in the development of a prototype automated oyster handling machine. Being able to utilise the research capabilities and facilities of the IT gave us confidence the project would be delivered to our expectation. It’s great to have all the facilities under one roof, whereby an idea can be advanced from concept to a working piece of equipment. Our prototype was even included in IT Sligo's annual Engineering Expo which created good exposure for us also.
Frank Carter, Business Development Director, Coney Island Shellfish Ltd
With thanks to the 3rd year students, Sam Elliot, Eugene Carter, David Doherty, Ciaran Cassidy, Fergus Collins and their supervisors on this project.