A team of world class science and engineering minds are deciding whether open ocean shellfish farming in Nelson is a viable option, with any successful project promising to significantly increase New Zealand’s shellfish production and exports by up to $300 million a year.
Headed by the Cawthron Institute, the team includes top international scientists, University of Canterbury scholars and aquaculture industry experts, who have been looking at the ability to more than double New Zealand’s aquaculture production. The first research project of its type in the world, data will be collected looking at the development of new shellfish technology suited to the high energy offshore environment.
“At present there’s over 10,000ha of consented open ocean water-space in New Zealand, and some progress has been made into developing this space but the open ocean is a very demanding environment,” project leader Kevin Heasman says. “This research project should open up possibilities and remove some hindering factors.
“Stormy weather can harm shellfish mussel stocks and damage equipment; our project team are workshopping innovative solutions to reduce these risks, he says.
“We’re innovating systems to work deep under the water’s surface where culture structures holding the shellfish are better protected from stormy weather. Here, they also have plenty of space to grow in harmony with other wildlife.”
German hydraulic and coastal engineer Dr Nils Goseberg says he is feeling positive about the project’s progress. “It’s unusual to have such an international grouping together to focus on aquaculture solutions,” he says. “I am confident we will get there.”
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment are funding the project and have committed $6 million over five years. Major aquaculture industry players including Sanford and Whakatohea Mussels Opotiki are supporting the project by providing insight and resources.
“Cawthron is really pleased to have pulled together a world-leading team from different engineering and science disciplines,” Cawthron chief executive Professor Charles Eason says. “We have globally leading marine research institutes working alongside our brilliant New Zealand researchers and industry experts.”
The project is benefitting from the expertise of international participants including Dr Arne Fredheim from the Scandinavian SINTEF research organisation, Dr Bela Buck from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, and University of New Hampshire director of coastal and ocean technology programs Professor Richard Langan.