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Government Invests $6m into a Seaweed Project

Waikaitu Ltd is proud to be a partner with Auckland University in a novel project awarded with $6m through the Endeavour Fund 2018.

Auckland University is spearheading an international research project to use biology to convert an invasive species of seaweed into fish food and organic fertiliser. A consortium of top international Universities and businesses has been granted with $6.1m for developing a new technology which aims to create several new products for the global farming and aquaculture industries. When fully developed this project has the potential to save millions of tons of wild caught fish which is currently being used to feed farmed fish such as salmon.

Scientific research revealed that symbiotic microbes discovered in the stomach of NZ seaweed-eating fishes convert seaweed and atmospheric nitrogen into compounds of nutritional value to fish. These microbes provide an important source of dietary protein to the fish and will make it possible to greatly reduce or eliminate wild caught fish as an ingredient in fish food. Fish food giant Ridley Aquafeeds in Australia is a key member of the consortium with a goal to create sustainable and environmentally sensitive fish production.

This ground breaking research first done at Auckland University of Technology takes a problematic seaweed and uses it to solve some of the worlds biggest problems. Agricultural runoff pollution and need for sustainable feed source for farmed fish. The world’s increasing demand for seafood food generates a powerful economic imperative for innovation in food production technology.

Culturing these microbial communities to bioconvert abundant and sustainable seaweeds would thus address four global problems:

1. The economic and environmental costs of feeding capture fish to cultured fish,

2. The unsuitability of many terrestrial protein sources for aquaculture feeds due to the lack of critical nutrients and the presence of compounds inhibitory to digestion,

3. Current roadblocks to using abundant seaweed biomass to produce aquaculture feeds,

4. The growing demand for sustainable agricultural fertiliser.

Waikaitu Limited is recognised as an innovation leader in New Zealand organic fertilisers and crop protection products is tasked to commercialise this technology for use in creating cleaner alternatives in conventional fertilisers that cause leaching of Nitrates into worlds soils and ground water.

“With concern growing over the use of fertiliser and high nitrate levels in our soils, more people are looking for cleaner alternatives. This research will dramatically improve productivity of organic fertiliser and reduce over reliance on chemical plant nutrition methods that have significant environmental impact on our planet”

Waikaitu CEO Alex Pressman says.

Waikaitu processes the freshly harvested seaweed into a range of organically certified products destined for organic and conventional growers in horticulture and pasture.

The grant, worth NZ$6m over five years, is led by Professor Kendall Clements (University of Auckland) and Associate Professor Lindsey White (Auckland University of Technology) with Associate Investigators from UoA, AUT, University of Canberra, Cornell University and Callaghan Innovation. It also includes key partnerships with industry including Waikaitu Ltd. and P&S Seaweed harvesters in New Zealand, Enviroflight LLC and Kampachi Farms LLC in the US, and Ridley Aquafeeds in Australia.


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