Large-scale research into a wide variety of algae is a step closer for Aotearoa’s first state-of-the-art aquaculture facility for macroalgae cultivation, with the granting of a seaweed and freshwater algae fish farming licence to the University of Waikato and WaikatoLink Ltd.
Aquaculture Senior Research Fellow, Dr Marie Magnusson was instrumental in setting up the University of Waikato’s Macroalgae Research Facility in Tauranga, which opened in November 2020. She says the licence enables both research and commercialisation at scale in the first operational multi-species macroalgae landbased farm.
“One of our research programmes includes marine farming of tens of thousands of metres of kelp seeded onto lines, producing several kilograms of seaweed per metre. We wouldn’t be undertaking this scale of research if we had to deal with the resulting tonnes of biomass ourselves. Holding the licence means we can now work with our partners to commercialise the project, creating a win-win for everyone involved.”
The seaweed farming industry is still in its infancy in Aotearoa, but with a clear government directive to explore blue initiatives there will almost certainly be additional licences granted soon.
“There are just so many opportunities for cultivating, developing and commercialising seaweed,” Dr Magnusson says. “This licence will break down a lot of barriers and open a lot of doors for partnership, investment and growth. It also adds student engagement opportunities and skills training in a growing industry.”
Dr Anna Henning from WaikatoLink Ltd, the University’s commercialisation and technology transfer office which holds the licence, says it will give the University the ability to engage more with a larger number of organisations that may otherwise see this type of investment as too risky.
“There’s now a critical mass of organisations looking at this space, as there is untapped opportunity in the aquaculture industry. This licence increases our ability to provide access to ground-breaking research - including new methods and product innovations - by directly enabling that industry connection.”