A project to support the development of the seaweed industry through marine farming has backing from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures), with CH4 Aotearoa receiving $850,000 towards its $2.6m marine farming pilot programme.
CH4 Aotearoa has already put the grant to work, with the opening this month of wholly-owned, purpose-built laboratories, and a hatchery, nursery and pilot tank farm at NIWA’s Northland Marine Research Centre.
CH4 Aotearoa will use the grant to further develop marine farming practices through the hatchery and nursery, to seed and cultivate methane-reducing Asparagopsis.
The project includes monitoring and evaluating environmental impacts from the commercial farming of Asparagopsis in the Hauraki Gulf, Marlborough Sounds, Tasman Bay and Golden Bay.
“Methane emissions from ruminants are a major contributor to global warming, and Asparagopsis has been found to reduce methane emissions from cattle and sheep by up to 90 per cent when fed as a supplement,” said CH4 Aotearoa General Manager Nigel Little.
Asparagopsis has progressed from being a proven methane-busting feed supplement to being incorporated into feedlot operations in Australia this year. Beef products processed from Asparagopsis-fed cattle will be available to the Australian market in the new year.
Mr Little said the SFF Futures grant had already enabled the completion of CH4 Aotearoa’s facility at NIWA, which forms a platform for the pilot marine farming systems to build the Asparagopsis aquaculture industry.
“Cutting methane emissions is critical for the environment, particularly with our reliance on cattle, dairy and sheep industries in New Zealand,” Mr Little said.
“By developing an Asparagopsis industry, we will not only be helping agricultural farmers to cut greenhouse gas emissions, we’ll also be unlocking new options for aquaculture farmers to grow and diversify their businesses.
“These marine pilot activities will be carried out in parallel to our land-based aquaculture strategy, which is focused on our previously announced Ocean Beach EcoPark, which started construction in early October.
“Across both marine and land-based platforms, we’re targeting revenue of NZ$360m by 2030, which would put our business on a par with the current revenues of both the salmon and mussel sectors.”
Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes, said the project could provide a commercially viable way of mitigating greenhouse gases.
“This project will provide invaluable insights into how Asparagopsis can be produced most effectively to maximise its effectiveness as a methane reducing supplement,” Mr Penno said.
“It will also help to promote growth and enhance capability in our growing seaweed industry.”