Our cultivation research is focused on the development of sustainable technologies to enable the production of marine and freshwater macroalgae for biomass applications. A key focus is to develop and optimise controlled reproduction and seeding techniques for the large-scale production of brown seaweeds in open sea aquaculture systems, and optimise established production methods for land-based cultivation of green seaweeds and freshwater macroalgae for New Zealand species and environmental conditions.
This research investigates the use of live macroalgae to bioremediate nutrient rich wastewaters from a range of sources including agriculture, aquaculture, horticulture, and municipal waste treatment. A key focus of our work is to understand the ecology of target species and how this can be applied to optimise biomass productivity and nutrient uptake under different environmental conditions. The overall goal is to develop a flexible and effective algal-based nutrient treatment system that can be applied to wastewaters with varying characteristics across diverse environmental conditions.
Macroalgae have a diverse and highly versatile biochemical profile with applications that range from low-value composts and biostimulants, medium-value supplements and functional foods, through to high-value materials. Our current projects focus on the incorporation of algal bioproducts for human and animal health and nutrition, plant health and biostimulants, and materials. An underlying theme for all of these projects is the development of biorefinery processes that target multiple products (cascading biorefineries) produced from the same batch of biomass.
Health and nutrition:
Bioproducts for human and animal health and nutrition include whole biomass, concentrates, macromolecular extracts, and small molecule bioactives. A key focus of our research is to develop an understanding of the impact of macroalgal products on the health of animal and human systems. The overall goal is to develop a range of supplement and functional food products that reduce enteric methane emissions and improve feed conversion ratios in livestock, and ameliorate known health and nutrition issues, including diseases related to metabolic syndrome and other nutritional deficiencies, in humans and companion animals.
Plant health and biostimulants:
Macroalgal preparations are widely used to stimulate plant growth, and to promote plant health and production yields. These outcomes result from the interaction of algal biomolecules with a range of plant-based biochemical processes. However, while the efficacies of algal products on plant health and growth are generally accepted, the mechanistic origins of these effects remain poorly understood. As such, a key focus of our research is to develop a better understanding of the active components of macroalgae preparations to inform the development of innovative new products. The overall goal is to improve plant yields whilst reducing the dependence on traditional pesticides.
Macroalgae are a rich source of fibre and a suitable target as a feedstock in the production of materials, including plastics, textiles, and other biomaterials. There are two key focuses of this research: firstly, to produce materials from macroalgae cultivated in the bioremediation of waste-water streams, and secondly, to produce nanocellulose for the production of textiles and other high tech applications. The overall goal is to develop innovative new materials from macroalgae and to reduce the dependence on related petrochemical products in order to reduce the impact of rubbish and micro-plastics in the environment.