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New Oyster Has Golden Touch

MEDIA RELEASE 15 January 2001


A new delicacy developed in New Zealand is set to tickle the tastebuds of oyster lovers in Japan and the USA. The rare and highly desirable golden oyster has been successfully bred commercially by an Auckland scientist and results from the first harvest look promising.

International markets, particularly the discerning Japanese and US southern States oyster bars, prefer a lighter oyster to New Zealand’s black-lipped Pacific oyster.

Until now, light golden oysters occurred naturally in the wild and only in very small quantities. The challenge facing leading seafood company Sanford, and young researcher Andrew Bell from the University of Auckland, was to determine whether oysters with the desirable gold colour could be bred consistently to provide the basis for a high value niche export.

Sanford staff had noticed the occasional light coloured oyster in wild spat caught on the West Coast. In 1998 the company began a research programme, fuelled by R&D funding from Technology New Zealand, which invested just over $100,000 through its Technology for Business Growth scheme and funded PhD graduate Andrew Bell into the research project as a Technology for Industry Fellow.

Equipped with spat selected from the ‘best in the wild’, a couple of buckets - complete with tidal flow to ensure the valuable young stock felt at home – and some tanks to grow algae feedstocks, Andrew began his

research in a specially built hatchery at Crop and Food’s Seafood laboratory in Mt Albert.

A year later the young hatchery-reared oysters were moved to Sanford farms in Northland’s Whangaroa Harbour and a few weeks ago, the first of

those year old golden oysters were harvested and taste tests confirmed a

consistent sweetness.

Teresa Borrell, group technical manager for Sanford, says the new oyster

will provide a high value boost for NZ oyster exports. She believes it will do for New Zealand’s oyster market what premium reserve wine, speciality cuts of meat or highly differentiated fibre does.

“We are looking for ways to develop high value, high margin products that take one of our fast expanding core businesses – marine farming – and give us access into valuable new niches,” she says. “We have to learn to make the best possible use of resources – there is only so much

water we can farm and we wouldn’t have been as far along as we are now without assistance from Technology New Zealand.

“Setting up a hatchery and breeding programme from scratch is a high capital cost item which we take as a normal commercial expenditure. However, assistance from Technology New Zealand to fund the graduate researcher and the breeding programme enabled us to better manage the risk, even though any research project has an element of speculation”.


Ian Gray, investment manager at the Foundation for Research, Science and

Technology which administers Technology New Zealand, says the golden oyster breeding project is exactly in line with the goals of the government funding agency which invests in high value, high tech R&D within businesses.

“We are keen to assist in funding high value innovation which helps a company find a new product or new market,” he says. “An increasing number of companies are coming to us with some very innovative ideas for

taking a food or fibre commodity and turning it into high value products.”

Now that the breeding technology is confirmed, Sanford intends to scale up the hatchery to commercial production. Early markets will be Japan and parts of the southern US towards the end of 2001, with the golden delicacy arriving on NZ tables soon after.


For more information: * Teresa Borrell, Sanford Ltd, 09 379 4720 * Ian Gray, Technology New Zealand at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, 09 912 6730 or 021 660 409

About Sanford Founded in 1881, Sanford is committed to the sustainable utilisation of seafood resources. It employs over 1300 people in regional locations in New Zealand in wide range of fishing, processing and aquaculture operations and is New Zealand’s only public company devoted entirely to the seafood industry.

-- Carrara Communications Ltd Public Relations / Communications P O Box 128-183 Remuera, Auckland, NZ Tel: 64 9 579 7270. Fax 64 9 579 7807 mobile: 021 80 4749 (025 80 4749 a/h)

..."Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." -Buddha

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