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New Research To Maximise Value From Seafood Resources

Plant & Food Research will be leading a new research programme looking at creating new responsive processing technologies to maximise value for New Zealand, thanks to support from the latest round of MBIE Endeavour Funding.

Cyber Physical Seafood Systems (Cyber-Marine) is a new multi-million dollar research programme aimed at achieving 100% utilisation and maximised value for all harvested wild and aquacultured seafood. Making use of all raw material will allow the industry to achieve growth targets without increasing catch volume from wild-capture fisheries as well as maximise value from increasing aquaculture. Once established for the seafood industry, the technology could be adapted for any bio-industrial process.

Seafood, in addition to providing food, contains a range of marine molecules, many with special properties. They range from big structural proteins for biomedical scaffolds, through to anti-inflammatory omega-3s, and blood pressure-lowering or anti-aging peptides. Many of these molecules are present outside of the portion of the fish processed for food, but different organisms contain different types and combinations of molecules, with each requiring specific extraction and processing techniques to maintain their properties for further use.

The new research programme will develop new technologies to extract useful molecules during seafood processing. Ultimately, the programme aims to create automated multi-operation flexible factories, monitored by artificial intelligence (AI) sensor systems that will detect the composition of materials and direct how the factory processes the seafood, extracting all available molecules and retaining their useful properties during the process.

“Seafood contains large amounts of molecules with a variety of really important applications,” says Dr Susan Marshall, leader of the Cyber-Marine programme. “Many of these molecules can be found in marine by-products and by-catch, so by extracting them for new products our seafood industry can grow without affecting seafood availability or needing more fish to be caught. It also ensures that we can use all of the biomass grown through aquaculture, not just focus on the food portion. The challenge is how to efficiently extract everything from really diverse marine organisms that contain different types and combinations of the molecules, whilst not destroying one component to recover another.”

The programme, which has been funded for 5 years, brings together world-leading scientists, technologists and engineers from Plant & Food Research, Callaghan Innovation, Otago and Victoria Universities in New Zealand and Deakin University in Australia, and supports a collaboration with scientists at Nofima in Norway. The programme brings together partners from across New Zealand’s seafood and marine products industries with many of them actively participating through raw material supply, staff involvement in projects and providing access to their factories for trials.

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