Auckland Council have earmarked $1.2 million to support the success of a Hauraki Gulf seaweed pilot farm project, which if successful, would scale up regenerative ocean farming and create numerous environmentally sustainable jobs in the region.
The Government is also contributing to the three-year pilot, funding nearly $2 million through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund. The project is being led by local business EnviroStrat and its team of experts in the coastal, marine, and blue economy sectors.
The University of Waikato researchers Dr Marie Magnusson and Dr Rebecca Lawton will oversee the research and trial designs, with input from the University of Auckland’s marine science faculty. Premium Seas Ltd and AgriSea Ltd will contribute their production, market, and processing expertise and local aquaculture farmers will provide onsite operations.
The council is appreciative of Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki support which provides access to recently consented marine farming space and sharing of knowledge of traditional Māori values to enhance the project’s success.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, says the pilot aligns with the council’s climate action and environmental goals, whilst creating good green local job opportunities.
“Experience overseas indicates that seaweed farming has a number of environmental benefits including removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere and helping to improve water quality by absorbing contaminants,” he says.
“As well as protecting the health of our marine ecosystems and helping us achieve our climate change goals, partnering with the Crown, iwi, and businesses with specialist knowledge in the seaweed aquaculture industry provides an opportunity to create environmentally friendly, local job opportunities for Aucklanders.”
Rising greenhouse gas emissions have far-ranging environmental and health impacts. A well-recognised greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, can dissolve into the ocean making the water more acidic, threatening water quality and marine life.
Craig Mcilroy, Auckland Council’s General Manager Healthy Waters, is excited about the social, cultural, and environmental opportunities the project presents for Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland.
“Seaweed may also be used as an alternative to common commercial biostimulants, and we can test their effectiveness on council farms. There are also the blue carbon sequestration benefits to be realised.
“The regenerative seaweed farming model, developed by GreenWave US, has proven successful, and could provide solutions to some of the challenges we face, including demands on our natural marine resources and rising pollution levels, compromising the health of our marine environment,” adds Mr Mcilroy.
The pilot which includes hatchery production, on-water farming, and data monitoring and measuring, could support many new opportunities for Aucklanders as the operating model supports individual operators to establish independently owned marine farms.
Seaweed aquaculture provides an opportunity to sequester carbon dioxide, improve water quality and absorb contaminants, as well as protect our marine ecosystems by providing buffering from more regular climate-change-induced storm events.
The initial seaweed biomass to be used by the hatcheries will be partially harvested from local kelp reefs in line with best practice guidelines outlined by the Ministry for Primary Industries. New Zealand native Brown Kelp (Ecklonia radiata) will be used.