The team at Nelson based SPATNZ says they are delighted to have won the Innovation in Agribusiness & Environment Award at this year’s New Zealand Innovation Awards in Auckland.
SPATNZ is a Sanford-owned company that has developed methods to breed New Zealand native Greenshell mussels in captivity at commercial scale. Greenshell mussels are notoriously challenging to breed in a hatchery and until now, mussel farmers have been relying on wild mussel spat which washes up on 90 Mile Beach or is caught on lines in Golden Bay.
SPATNZ aims to provide a secure source of mussel spat for farmers all year round. Their work could be worth up to $200 million a year to the New Zealand economy, once it is shared across the industry.
SPATNZ Programme Leader Rodney Roberts says the win caps off an incredible year for the team.
“2017 really has been good to us. We have started harvesting the first of the mussels grown in the new hatchery and the results are already very good. Our aim is to breed faster growing, more resilient mussels from a large number of select families to ensure that we are giving farmers the best of what nature has to offer,” he says.
The SPATNZ hatchery and the science behind it is the result of a collaboration between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and New Zealand’s oldest and biggest seafood company, Sanford, through the Primary Growth Partnership.
Sanford and MPI are each investing $13 million into this PGP programme over its lifetime. Sanford and its contract growers will initially benefit from the research and technology but a requirement of this Primary Growth Partnership programme is that in time, the technology will be made available for adoption across the industry.
Sanford CEO Volker Kuntzsch says the SPATNZ work is an example of great science and innovation yielding practical results that are a benefit to the country as a whole.
“At Sanford we are heavily focused on science and innovation to support sustainable fishing and aquaculture, so the Innovation Awards are an excellent event to be part of,” he says. “We are delighted that the team at SPATNZ have won this Innovation in Agribusiness & Environment Award which is a real honour and great recognition of their hard work over many years. Congratulations to all of them.”
MPI Investment Programmes Director Justine Gilliland says SPATNZ is a great example of the strength of government and industry partnering on innovation.
“Giving primary industry innovation a boost is at the heart of the Primary Growth Partnership. SPATNZ’s recognition at the Innovation Awards is fitting for a programme that will literally transform our Greenshell mussel industry,” says Gilliland.
Roberts says the next milestone for his team will be seeing results of their studies comparing hatchery mussels with wild caught mussels.