South Mississippi shrimp shell processing plant first of its kind in the world

South Mississippi shrimp shell processing plant first of its kind in the world

VANCLEAVE, MS (WLOX) - They may be messy, but shrimp shells in South Mississippi may help change the world.

“This is a new economy,” said Richard Feldman, spokesperson for the new company Mari Signum Dragon Drying. “This is much bigger than an industry. What we’re doing here, starting in Southern Mississippi and going up to Richmond, is going to change the way all our lives will exist around the planet.”

The Mari Signum Dragon Drying facility in Vancleave is the only one of its kind in the world that turns shrimp shells into something almost as good as gold: Chitin, a non-toxic bio-polymer that has a huge number of uses from medical applications to cosmetics.

“We really believe that’s the future of capitalism. It isn’t to extract every dime possible right now. It’s to protect our natural resources for the future. That’s good business. That’s going to make us more money,” he explained.

At the wheel of the process is plant manager Bruce Lafata.

“This is completely different than anything I’ve ever done before,” he said.

But the good news is that it's not complicated.

“Actually, our process is very simple,” he said. “It’s a real simple layout. It’s a matter of bringing shells in, conveying them into a dryer, getting them back out and grinding them,” he explained.

Shells from processors on the Coast, which would have otherwise been sent to a landfill, are hauled in and dumped into a 20-ton pit.

They are then moved through a system into a huge, gas-fired drier that turns the shells into the consistency of corn flakes. Then, they are ground into a fine powder.

It will take about two weeks to create enough to make its first shipment to its Virginia plant to extract the Chitin.

“South Mississippi is going to show the rest of the nation and the world how to do these things in a way that leaves no footprint that’s nasty, don’t harm the environment and can preserve and utilize all of our renewable sustainable resources,” Feldman said.

The company, which has earned a national green chemistry award as well as a commendation by Gov. Phil Bryant, is expected to have more than 20 employees when it gets into full production in the next two weeks.

The grand opening for the company will be at 11 a.m. Monday.

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