AgraTech International Inc. will invest $10 million to renovate a former bottling plant in Opelousas, Louisiana, into a manufacturing facility that converts seafood waste into various biotech products, creating 50 jobs.
The biotech venture will convert seafood shell waste into commercial products for the automotive, defense and medical sectors. Raw shrimp, crawfish and crab shells will be converted into chitosan for products ranging from water-repellant coatings on windshields to enhanced sunscreen lotions, nasal sprays to treat nosebleeds, and dental membranes for implant surgery. In addition to a 37,500-square-foot facility in Opelousas, AgraTech International will establish a research partnership with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“Chitosan production is a totally green endeavor: It is a natural, renewable, nontoxic and nonhazardous, biodegradable product,” said AgraTech International Inc. Chairman Richard DeMarco. “AgraTech will be the sole domestic commercial supplier of high-quality chitosan. From our Opelousas location, the company intends to remain in the vanguard of chitosan research, developing new chitosan-based products.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal said, “This announcement is great news for Acadiana and our entire state. The new facility will mill shrimp, crawfish and crab shells, waste that previously had to be discarded and added an additional cost to Louisiana’s seafood industry. Turning a negative into a positive for the Louisiana economy, AgraTech will convert these seafood shells into chitosan that will be used in new products for the medical, automotive and defense industries. “
“AgraTech could have invested in other states, but chose Louisiana because of our strong business climate, incomparable workforce and our world-class seafood industry. The bottom line is that Agratech’s decision to invest here is not only good news for our economy and our workers, but also our seafood industry and for our higher education community,” he added.
In addition to medical applications, AgraTech will manufacture and license the technology to produce a chitosan-based, water-repellant coating permanently bonded to glass. Water-barrier applications in the automotive, construction, defense and optics sectors hold significant potential in what the company estimates is a more than $36 billion market. AgraTech and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are negotiating a research partnership agreement to enhance market applications for the company and research opportunities for the campus.
As an incentive the firm is eligible to receive state tax credits, as well as incentives for locating in an Enterprise and Industrial Tax Exemption Zone.