Independent scientific research for the benefit of New Zealand.

Enabling Open Ocean Shellfish Aquaculture

New Zealand’s $264M shellfish aquaculture sector is eager to grow in response to globally increasing demand but is constrained by limited access to sheltered inshore farm space. The new frontier is open ocean aquaculture (OOA), where large tracts of consented space are available but farming is challenging. If this space were fully utilised, it would more than double NZ’s total aquaculture estate.

Inshore farming methods lack durability and are expensive to maintain when extended into the high-energy open ocean. While futuristic open ocean finfish systems are rapidly evolving, systems for shellfish OOA are in their infancy. New engineering concepts and new farming approaches are needed to maximise the sustainable production potential of the challenging OOA environment and give industry confidence to invest.

Drawing on our team’s extensive OOA experience, we will develop new tools and methods needed to cost-effectively farm shellfish in this new frontier, potentially realising ~$300M p.a. in new export revenue. Solving the technical challenges and giving industry confidence to invest will unlock the potential of this new aquaculture frontier.

Funder: The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) are funding the project and have committed $6 million over 5 years.

Partners and collaborators: Our multidisciplinary team integrates expertise in aquaculture engineering, shellfish biology, environmental monitoring, systems automation and research implementation.
Major aquaculture industry players including Sandford Ltd and Whakatohea Mussels Opotiki Ltd are supporting the project by providing insight and resources.

Our international collaborators are experienced designers of large marine structures for harsh oceanic environments. Their access to the latest large-scale research tools, including massive wave tanks, is unique and will enable the design leap required to achieve success.

For more information, please contact Kevin Heasman.

News stories
Work begins to develop open ocean marine farms
International team gathers in New Zealand to innovate a new frontier in food production
Shellfish farming research team visits Marlborough Sounds
Open ocean farming project set to boost New Zealand exports

Cawthron scientist and project leader Kevin Heasman