Credit: Scott Sinton / Greenwave NZ

Posted on 09 December 2022

Seafood Magazine: Shaping the seaweed sector

Shared with permission from Seafood New Zealand Magazine -December 2022

A roadmap has been created that not only explains the huge potential of Aotearoa New Zealand’s seaweed sector, but also how to begin unlocking it.   

The Seaweed Sector Framework was released in October, and provides a roadmap of priorities and knowledge gaps. It was developed out of the Sustainable Seas Building a seaweed sector project.  

Project lead Rob Major, a marine scientist at Cawthron Institutesays the framework stems from a series of reviews to figure out what was known about the seaweed industry in New Zealand.  

That work produced useful reports, but also revealed a lack of knowledge about the seaweed sector, and how to progress it. 

The research team started to talk to people involved or interested in the industry to figure out what was needed to fill those gaps.  

“We held workshops and talked to Māori leaders who were really interested in the potential of seaweed, and aquaculture in general. We talked to a whole range of researchers, from ecologists through to chemists – to get a better understanding of the chemicals and bioactives in seaweed,” Major says.  

Industry case studies from AgriSea, CH4 Global, Kelp Blue, Pacific Harvest, Premium Seas, and Te Whānau-ā-Apanui fed into the framework.   

It was important to engage with industry people, Major says.  

“We had some good conversations about the barriers and risks that are affecting the industry and preventing people from entering it.”  

One of those barriers is regulation, and the way seaweed sits between various acts, which hamper aquaculture and the supply chain. Researchers identified barriers and priorities for regulatory change.  

The document is aimed not just at industry, but regional councils and central government agencies who develop regulation that effects the seaweed sector.  

Major says wild harvesting can’t provide the volumes of seaweed needed to support a growing sector, so seaweed needs to be farmed to create that supply. 

EnviroStrat chief executive Nigel Bradly, who was part of the research team for Building a seaweed sector says the industry in Aotearoa New Zealand is still incredibly nascent.  

Bradly says the framework prioritises what needs to happen and is market-led. 

“Understanding what the priority markets are, or should be, allowed us to work backwards.”  

He says there’s a lot of misunderstanding about the opportunities in seaweed, and the framework tries to address that. 

“For example, in New Zealand we shouldn’t be producing seaweed to sell as food products in the Asian market, because they already grow seaweed there, they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years.”  

Instead, the competitive edge lies in high-value products for niche markets, such as health and beauty, food, animal feed supplements, and biostimulants.  

Bradly says the sector being so new provides a wonderful opportunity for the framework to influence the sector before it’s fully developed.  

“This enables us to identify and prioritise opportunities to achieve the vision that rimurimu/seaweed contributes significantly to New Zealand’s economy and supports thriving ecosystems, communities, and culture.”  

More Posts

Related projects & activities

Building a seaweed sector
Credit: Leigh Tait/NIWA
Building a seaweed sector
  • Completed project

Developing a seaweed sector framework for Aotearoa New Zealand.