The labs from the STEBICEF department at the University of Palermo have created a manual for the extraction of chitosan from red prawn heads (Aristaeomorpha foliacea) provided by our local leading red prawn company – Rosso di Mazara®.

Although the extraction of chitosan, a polysaccharide, from prawns is not a novelty, Bythos is happy to be able to extract it from residues provided by the local red prawn industry  and our researchers are also extremely pleased with the purity and quality of the chitosan produced. On average, yields under laboratory conditions is approx. 10%.  (10 grams of. prawn heads provides 1 gram of chitosan).

Chitosan has some interesting applications – it is used as a fining agent in the wine-making industry, as a biopesticide in agriculture and, in Medicine, current research is centred around using chitosan in wound dressing to reduce bleeding, in drug delivery and in medical devices. It is used in water purification and waste water treatment and in the cosmetics, bioplastics and pharmaceutical industries. It is even being considered as an edible antimicrobial film to improve the shelf-life of perishable foods.

A report from Global Industry Analysts Inc. (chitin and chitosan derivatives market report – 2015) estimated that in 2015, global demand (60,000 t)  for chitin and chitosan derivatives significantly outstripped supply (28,000 t) and should reach 63 Billions USD by 2024.

That is positive news for Mazara del Vallo, which has a long history of crustacean fishing and whose fleets are specialised in the capture of red shrimp and deep-water rose shrimp but which is currently suffering from high fuel prices and overexploitation of marine resources. Diversification in the processing industry might relieve some of that pressure.   D4.1 Chitosan extraction manual