Innovation Fund
  • Active project

A novel approach to aquaculture in Aotearoa New Zealand

Growing community wellbeing with pātiki tōtara/yellowbelly flounder

Project Leader Duration Budget
Simon Muncaster (University of Waikato) April 2021 – December 2023 $250,000


Aotearoa New Zealand’s aquaculture industry has an ambitious goal of growing into a $3 billion industry by 2035. Aquaculture is a difficult industry for new investors, with high start-up costs and risks due to the expertise required, the expensive infrastructure, and scale of operation. Lack of diversity has also been identified as key risk to the resilience and growth of the New Zealand aquaculture industry.

In the past, a corporate business model focussed on capital investment has been used to address these issues. Because of the high investment cost of this exclusive model, many īwi living in coastal communities are unable to enter the aquaculture industry despite their strong connection and whakapapa as cultural guardians of the marine environment. These remote communities often suffer high unemployment and socio-economic deprivation, but still own prime coastal land.

We are co-developing a ‘disruptive’ community-led business model that will allow small, whānau-owned aquaculture farms with fewer resources to compete as alternate stakeholders within the aquaculture industry. Pātiki tōtara/yellowbelly flounder has been identified as a strong candidate species to achieve this new approach to aquaculture.

Grounded in kaupapa Māori to reflect value across three key dimensions – social (hauora, oranga), environmental/ecological (kaitiaki) and economic (mana motuhake), our three workstreams are:

1. Exploring the relevant mātauranga Māori of pātiki tōtara

By exploring mātauranga Māori of the local hapū, we will better understand the distribution, seasonal movement and feeding habits of pātiki tōtara.

2. Co-creating a minimal viable product based on a kaupapa Māori approach

Working with local whānau and hapū enterprise, we will co-create a minimal viable product that is acceptable to local communities. We will develop a unique ‘Aquaculture Ecosystem Canvas’ to show how whānau-owned aquaculture farms can co-operate to generate economies of scale and scope.

3. Advancing the science of pātiki aquaculture and hatchery technology

We will refine the hatchery technology to ensure a sustainable and scalable supply of juvenile pātiki with a focus on optimising spawning protocols.

Research Team

Simon Muncaster (University of Waikato)
Steve Bird (University of Waikato)
Kura Paul-Burke (University of Waikato)
Tim Coltman (University of Waikato)
Jason Murray (Matakana Island Marine Club)
Dicki Farrar (Whakatohea Māori Trust Board)
Aubrey Te Kanawa (Ahikōmako – Centre of Māori Innovation & Entrepreneurship)

Related News



  • June 2021
    Masters student recruitment
  • May 2023
    Wānanga 1 – Pre-acceleration bootcamp
  • June 2023
    Wānanga 2 – Business operations model, and Wānanga 3 – Sales and marketing
  • June 2023
    Report of mātauranga Māori for relevant community members
  • September 2023
    Aquaculture Ecosystem Canvas developed; Popular science article completed
  • December 2023
    Academic publications submitted; end of project report and hui; Masters completion and presentation to iwi partners