Shrimp shells are often considered waste, but in the hands of Harry Agusnar, shrimp shells can be processed into chitosan compounds with many practical applications.
Professor Dr. Harry Agusnar, MSc, M.Phil, of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Universitas Sumatera Utara (USU), was interested in researching and processing chitosan waste since 1987 when he pursued his master’s degree at the National University of Malaysia. While researching aromatic chemicals, he found that chitosan has medicinal potential for human use.
He worked with aromatic chemical compounds to separate compounds from C6 – C10 with chitosan from shrimp shells as the main ingredient. He came up with hand body lotion, hand sanitizer, paper soap, and recently, a chitosan face serum with anti-aging claims.
Initially, Harry’s family was skeptical about the potential of shrimp shells, but after application, the researched products caught their attention.
According to Harry, the process of producing chitosan is relatively simple. He started by deshelling shrimps and then drying or soaking the fresh shells in alkaline water to eliminate the odor. The shells are not cooked or boiled because these can damage the compounds.
Harry has received positive responses for his products, which were widely used by university staff working offline during the COVID-19 pandemic, among them the Kitosan Hand Sanitizer and Chitosan Paper Soap products and his breakthrough alcohol-free chitosan-based hand sanitizer.
At the moment, Harry is excited to seek a distribution company so his products can be sold to the public. He is also working on a set of haircare products made from chitosan: hair tonic, shampoo, and conditioner, in addition to a chitosan fiber/yarn.
He hopes that his products, labeled with USU branding, can popularize the university as a hub of scientific creativity, offering a wide range of accessible, affordable care products to the public and emphasizing the university’s contribution to industry in society’s awareness.