LSU Students Create an Automated Robotic Arm for Crawfish Harvesting

For every pound of delicious Louisiana crawfish, there is a talented and exhausted crawfish farmer whose strenuous, intensive crawfish harvesting labor might soon be aided by a robotic arm designed by students at Louisiana State University, as reported by The Advocate.

When crawfish farmers are harvesting the crop of crustaceans in the summer months, they are oftentimes operating their boat with one foot while leaning over the side, grabbing traps from the waters. Then in an efficiently choreographed, rheumatic motion, they flip the trap at an angle, toss in more bait, and set it back in the water with tactical precision. This method yields 100 million pounds of crawfish every spring, but it is incredibly labor-intensive.

Advocate reporter Caroline Savoie spoke to David Vercher, one of the six LSU biological engineering students who helped to bring an automated crawfish trap-retrieving arm to life. Vercher worked many, many seasons on his family’s farm where they harvested 300,000 pounds of crawfish a day, and he reported that “experienced crawfish farmers get the job done pretty quickly, but it’s hard on their bodies. If they have a device that will make their jobs easier and more sustainable“that makes all the difference.”

Vercher designed, coded, and manufactured the device, which can lift, empty, and re-bait crawfish traps just with a tap of a Playstation 4 controller. The engineering team at the helm of this project are all natives of the state of Louisiana, and they believe that this harvesting arm could save time, money, and potentially prevent back injuries. Funding for the device came from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Tests conducted using the prototype, which is about ⅓ of the size of a commercial crawfish trap, show that it can complete the harvesting task of crawfishing in an average of about 18.3 seconds, which is comparable to a person’s speed.

After she became aware of high costs and labor shortages in the crawfish industry, senior project advisor Professor Chandra Theegala suggested the idea to create the robotic harvester as one of several options for her students’ final assignments. She said of the prototype, “it’s a high-tech project. I originally planned to have a graduate student working on this, but COVID restrictions prohibited that. So I decided to put a team of undergraduates together, and I was extremely impressed with their dedication and interest.” Professor Theegala hopes that the completed project will provide proof of concept to eventually build a harvesting arm to scale.

The project team had worked mostly through Zoom meetings and group messages to delegate the project’s responsibilities according to their enterprises. Vercher has designed the bait reloading device, Ben Thomas programmed and coded the arm’s motion, Damien Glaser constructed the budget and ordered parts, Bryan Tassin conducted background research and managed the team so that everyone was on task, and Sarah Mitchell brought the project to life.

Mitchell accomplished this through the use of her personal 3D printer, which allowed her to produce the harvesting arm’s trap tops, grips, “crawfish,” and “bait” out of PETG plastic, a material that is used in single-use water bottles.

After its completion, the only component of the design that isn’t automatic is aligning the hand with a crawfish trap. This slight incompatibility fuels Thomas’s goal to make the arm entirely automatic so that it can align itself on an actively moving boat. He said that to make his goal a reality, the device would have to also be waterproof, adding, “it would be much quicker. Ideally, the boat would keep moving, and the arm would be able to sense and grab traps at the front of the boat.”

Upon the project’s completion, team member Sarah Mitchell expressed her satisfaction, saying, “I never expected to work on a school project that could make a real difference. It was just our little robot.”

For more Louisiana-related articles, click here.

Louisiana Favorite’s: Extra Crawfish Tail Recipes

It is officially spring, feeling like summer. We all know that means one thing; it’s Crawfish time. All of the big pots have started boiling those mud-bugs. Crawfish boils usually end with no leftovers, but sometimes you will get lucky and have some extra. This means endless possibilities for Crawfish recipes. Louisiana Cookin’ recently published a blog with 9 recipes that you can use for those left of tails, here are three of them!

Tomato Crawfish Salad

INGREDIENTS

1 (16-ounce) package of cooked crawfish tails, make sure to rise them and drain them

⅓ cup powdered Tomato Mix

½ cup canola oil

1 teaspoon hot sauce

½ cup thinly sliced celery

1-pint grape tomatoes, they need to be halved

12 pickled okra pods, these need to be halved also

¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon of horseradish, make sure it is already prepared

2 tablespoons of lemon juice, the fresher the better

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1½ teaspoons dry mustard

Grab a medium mixing bowl and mix together the juice, powdered Tomato mix, salt, pepper, hot sauce, and horseradish. You then want to slowly add the oil, while constantly whisking the mixture to make sure it combines nicely. This is what will be used for the dressing.

In a different mixing bowl, combine the onion, okra, tomato, celery, and of course the crawfish. Take ¼ of your dressing and mix it into this bowl. Serve the extra dressing on the side so guest can add more if needed.

Crawfish Dip

INGREDIENTS

Crawfish

1 cup water

1-pound cooked crawfish tail meat

2 cups sour cream

1 (1-ounce) package dried porcini mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bunch green onions, sliced

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup unsalted butter

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Take a microwave safe bowl and heat up 1 cup of water on high. You want the water to be really hot, add the mushrooms until they soften. Strain the mushrooms but make sure to keep the liquid. Cut the mushrooms into fine pieces.

Take a medium saucepan, melt the butter, add the green onion, and then mix in the floor, letting it cook for 5 minutes

Take the mushroom liquid, the mushrooms, and the garlic, and add it to the saucepan. This needs to be brought to a boil.

Add the salt, pepper, and Crawfish; once adding the Crawfish continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Then reduce to low heat; add the parsley and sour cream.

Cajun Crawfish Bread

INGREDIENTS

1 (12-ounce) loaf French bread and halved it lengthwise

1 pound cooked crawfish tails

½ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons butter

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, it needs to be softened

¾ cup sweet onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, make sure they are minced

¾ cup green onion, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped parsley, fresh

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning*

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¾ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (with peppers)

First preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Take the bread halves and spread the mayonnaise on both halves.

Melt the butter in a large skillet, add the sweet onion and cook for about 5 minutes.

Then add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. The parsley, green onion, and crawfish should be add next, cook for about 5 minutes. The cream cheese and Cajun seasoning will come next. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir to make sure the

cheese is fully mixed.

Take the mixture and spread it on both halves of the bread, garnish with the cheeses and paprika. Bake the bread until the cheese looks melted then turn on the broil, you want the cheese to be slightly browned.
For more delicious recipes, click here.

Southern Living Stove-top Crawfish Boil

 

Crawfish season is upon us here in South Louisiana and we have been on the prowl to find the best crawfish recipe. Southern living has this amazing recipe that is easy as pie and doesn’t require all the fancy equipment… All you need is a sink, stove and a big pot! Give this recipe a try and let us know if you have any secrets when it comes to cooking the best crawfish.

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 gal. water
  • 2 (4-oz.) pkg. seafood boil, such as Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp, and Crab Boil
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup Creole seasoning
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 5 lemons, halved
  • 2 garlic heads, halved crosswise
  • 4 small yellow onions, halved
  • 2 pounds small red potatoes, halved
  • 2 large fresh artichokes
  • 10 pound live fresh crawfish, purged (ask your vendor)
  • 4 ears corn, husks removed

How to Make It

Step 1

Bring 4 1/2 gallons water to a rolling boil in a 7- to 8-gallon stockpot over high. (Start early! This could take 30 to 40 minutes.) Add seafood boil, salt, Creole seasoning, bay leaves, lemons, garlic, and onions. Stir until spices are dissolved. Add potatoes and artichokes; return to a boil. Boil 20 minutes. Add crawfish, and simmer 5 minutes.

Step 2

Cut each ear of corn into 4 pieces, and add to pot. Simmer 5 minutes. (If you lose your boil at any point, cover with a lid to return it to a simmer.)

Step 3

Line a large sheet pan with newspaper or parchment paper. Pour mixture through a large colander, or remove crawfish and vegetables from water, using a slotted spoon. Place crawfish and vegetables on pan. Serve with Creole Mayo for dipping.

Step 4

Tip: You’ll know the water is seasoned perfectly when it makes your eyes water.