A Nova Scotia seafood company has been granted a U.S. patent for a system that better identifies how ready a lobster is for market. The camera-based system is expected to determine the meat content and quality of lobsters as they ride a conveyor belt during processing.

According to the U.S. Patent office, Clearwater Seafoods was granted a patent on Nov. 12 for its new system.

It consists of a camera that photographs the lobster using visible, infrared and ultraviolet light spectrums. By comparing the patterns established with these images, the software can determine a lobster’s molt stage, according to the patent filing,

That information can help automate determining which lobsters are the highest quality to ship, and separate out lower-quality lobsters on a processing line. Additionally, it’s a noninvasive procedure and can be used on a conveyor belt, common in lobster processing facilities.

Because of variances related to molt stages, a lobster with a harder shell is assumed to have more meat than its softshell cousin, but that’s not always the case.

Clearwater’s new system could potentially replace blood protein analysis and other invasive procedures that are typically performed on a sample of lobster shipments to determine molt stages. Other tests, such as ultrasound or X-ray scans, can be unreliable, or are difficult to implement, according to Clearwater’s patent information.

The patent, which covers the camera system and the software that uses the images to predict molt stage, can also be used to monitor incoming shipments. The system can also be used as a standalone application on a smartphone.

There is no indication of how extensively Clearwater may be testing or using its new system. A call placed to the company Wednesday afternoon was not returned.

In September, Clearwater reported sales in excess of $607 million (Canadian). It catches, processes and ships premium wild, eco-certified seafood, including scallops, lobster, clams, whelks, coldwater shrimp and crabs.

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