“This will enable the biggest development in the industry since we started farming mussels on long lines nearly 40 years ago. ”
A $52 million investment to domesticate the Greenshell Mussel is about to revolutionise the industry.
With selectively bred broodstock, a hatchery, new jobs and an eight-figure injection in yearly revenue, this looks set to be the biggest single development in decades.
There is a buzz a-brewing through New Zealand’s Aquaculture sector with news that the Greenshell Mussel will be domesticated.
It’s news that’s considered the biggest single advancement in the industry in nearly 40 years.
It became official last month with the announcement of Spat NZ’s successful Primary Growth Partnership bid that will see $52million dedicated to creating a brood stock and facilities to revolutionise the industry.
“It’s monumental,” explains PGP steering committee chair Toni Grant.
“I see this as the industry growing up.“It’s part of our evolution.
“This will enable the biggest development in the industry since we started farming mussels on long lines nearly 40 years ago.”
Domestication will see the sector move away from wild-caught spat, in favour of animals with pre-determined market and production desired traits.
It has the potential to improve every aspect of growing, from sourcing spat, grow times, product attributes, shelf life and ultimately profit margins.
Under the seven-year project, Spat NZ, a collaboration between industry heavyweights Sanford, Sealord and Wakatu Incorporation, will build a hatchery anddevelop the capabilities to seed a new-and improved line of Greenshell mussels.
Sanford Managing Director Eric Barratt told investors the project would emulate the selective breeding gains achieved in other primary sectors.
“Selective breeding has been by far the most significant development in industries such as dairy, beef, sheep, fruit, vegetable and wine,” Mr Barratt said in his Annual Meeting address.
“The New Zealand mussel industry has grown to be the largest single seafood item exported from New Zealand but so far only on the basis of wild caught spat harvested from beaches north of Auckland and through spat harvested in the Golden Bay and Marlborough Sounds areas.
“This seven year programme will co-develop hatchery and life-cycle breeding families to supply spat on a commercial basis to the industry in future years.
“We are very confident that this programme will have significant economic value to the partners with the selectively bred mussels being able to achieve improved prices through better quality, greater yield and faster growth.”
Early figures suggest the project could add up to $230 million in annual revenue and create a significant number of jobs by its completion.
“When the project is completed and we look out in 2025 when we have this selectively bred spat and we know how to work with it, process it and market it, it will make a significant contribution to industry’s billion-dollar goal,” Ms Grant said.
The SPAT NZ project is also significant in that it marks the first time that industry competitors have pooled resources for research and development.
“Individually, each company had been doing their own research for years,” Ms Grant said.
“In 2009 it all came together as there were separate projects going on with separate funding and we realised we’d be able to move forward faster by pooling our resources and sharing knowledge.”