Meteghan man builds bait-dispensing lobster trap
Hopes to tap market from Newfoundland to New Jersey
A machine shop operator from Meteghan says he's ready to change the region's lucrative lobster fishery by building a better lobster trap.
Vince Stuart has invented the Bait Savour, a $50 device that uses a fuse to dole out a second load of bait so lobster fishermen don't have to check their traps as often.
"It's well worth it. The value to the fisherman comes back very quickly," Stuart told CBC News on Thursday.
Stuart, the owner of Clare Machine Works Ltd., has just won $100,000 from Innovacorp — a provincial government agency that holds a biennial competition to promote good ideas in startup businesses.
The businessman said using the Bait Savour is easy — it's installed next to the traditional bait spike in a lobster trap. Then, the dispenser is tripped open by a biodegradable fuse made of fish products, engineered to degrade after 24, 48 or 72 hours.
"It allows the bell to simply rise to floatation and exposes the bait," Stuart explained.
"If we save one trip a week, we save $700 just in fuel alone. Also we save wear and tear, we save cost of crew."
Stuart has been tinkering with this project for eight years. The key, he said, was developing a biodegradable mechanism to release the bait.
He tried wind-up toys, batteries and springs and even designed a version using a computer.
"It boiled down to the simplest way," said Stuart.
Device developed at Dalhousie lab
Stuart took his idea to the Innovation in Design Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, which helps startups with engineering expertise and academic infrastructure.
Tests on the biodegradable fuse were conducted on campus.
"That was the key — biological material. If you can get the biological fuse to release to a set time and use buoyancy inside the device, that is what makes it work," said Matt d'Entremont, the director of the iDLab.
"It's simply just a container. But it's how that container works that makes the product."
Stuart said he's in talks with Clearwater to test the Bait Savour.
"There's millions of traps in the water. We've done our research and from Newfoundland to Barnegat, New Jersey on the eastern shore, there's well over three million traps in the water," he said.
"We have a market penetration of 1.5 per cent of that, we have a business."
Stuart said he hopes his Bait Savour will be on wharves in time for the late fall opening of the lucrative lobster fishery in southwest Nova Scotia.
"This has a great chance of success," said d'Entremont.
"When you look at this product compared to other ones, you can see that there is an actual market. It's not fictitious."