Mussel milestone marked
New Zealand aquaculture is getting stronger mussels, thanks to some heavyweight Kiwi science underway in Nelson.
A new hatchery and lab facility has opened at Cawthron Aquaculture Park, where Greenshell™ mussels are selectively bred for industry, like sheep or cattle. Until now, the mussel farming industry has relied on baby mussels or spat collected from the wild – which means variability in their supply and performance.
"If farmers can get their spat from a hatchery, that changes a lot. They'll know what they're getting and when they'll get it, and it will produce high performing mussels," says Gary Hooper, CEO of Aquaculture New Zealand.
Watch the video 'Spatnz - Our Story'.
The world-first hatchery was built by Shellfish Production and Technology New Zealand Ltd (SPATnz) as part of a $26 million Primary Growth Partnership programme between SPATnz, Sanford Limited and the Ministry for Primary Industries.
It marks a significant milestone in Cawthron, government and industry's 20-year quest to commercialise breeding of the iconic delicacy.
"Great work like this is a direct result of science and industry working together. It means Greenshell™ mussels have the potential to become an increasingly higher-value product." says Cawthron Institute Chief Executive, Professor Eason.
Working with nature
SPATnz Programme Manager, Dr Rodney Roberts, says the technology used to breed the mussels is natural and sustainable.
"Our breeding programme relies on conventional selective breeding – just like terrestrial farmers have used for generations. There's no genetic engineering involved, but modern techniques like DNA fingerprinting are really useful to make sure that our breeding population remains genetically diverse," he says.
"We feed them all-natural algae like they would eat in the sea and we keep them in clean seawater. So, we can naturally breed healthy baby mussels to underpin a wonderfully sustainable and nutritious food."
Find out more:
Read about how Cawthron science helped transform the Greenshell™ mussel into export gold.
Watch the SPATnz video (3.33min).