Turning ‘gorse to gourmet’

Wakame Fresh director Lucas Evans, and the invasive seaweed Undaria or wakame, at a mussel farm near Coromandel Town.

Coromandel company Wakame Fresh is the first recipient of a government grant to help it turn pest seaweed into premium edible export.

Undaria is an invasive seaweed and is often referred to as the gorse of the sea as it is a scourge for the mussel industry, clogging the lines around the mussel farms.

However, the edible seaweed is a delicacy in markets in Japan, where it is known as ‘wakame’.

Coromandel Town-based Wakame Fresh has received $75.000 from the Government’s $40 million-a-year Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund (SFF Futures) to investigate the commercial viability of harvesting, processing and exporting the edible seaweed to Japan – where quality wakame is in short supply.

It’s the first project to receive money from the Ministry for Primary Industries, through the fund.

The company has been harvesting Undaria for domestic consumption for seven years and began exporting to Australia in 2018.

Co-owner Lucas Evans says the project is about turning ‘gorse into gourmet’ and advancing opportunities for the aquaculture industry.

“This is a project that’s also important for New Zealand more broadly, as we explore the feasibility of a new aquaculture sector.”

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says the project is exciting, pioneering and innovative and it has the potential to create new market opportunities.

It also supports a Government priority to assist thriving and sustainable regions.

“This could be the next big thing for New Zealand. We could be looking at the start of a lucrative edible seaweed export market into Japan and other Asian countries.”

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash says a number of people, including investors and researchers, are interested in this project’s trial and its results.

“If successful, it will encourage New Zealand’s aquaculture sector to collaborate and invest further in this area.

“Aquaculture is a growth industry for this country and has the potential to play a more significant role in our economy. It’s currently worth $600 million a year and employs more than 3000 people. We want to be the most productive, sustainable country in the world. Projects like this will contribute to New Zealand’s reputation in sustainable and innovative aquaculture.”


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