AUT and Ocean Beach: Bluff aquaculture

27 Jul, 2020
 
Prof Andrea Alfaro_1
Professor Andrea Alfaro, AUT

The owners of the former Ocean Beach freezing works have partnered with Auckland University of Technology (AUT) on a vision to turn its Southland site into a centre of excellence for aquaculture.

The first major step has been to re-establish pāua (abalone) farming at Bluff with science advice, led by AUT marine biologist Professor Andrea Alfaro. With more than 500,000 juvenile pāua now growing, the farm is on target to produce its first major harvest in 2023.

Seeing the importance of education and research to the industry's sustained success, Ocean Beach has now signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with AUT, aimed at making Ocean Beach a world class facility for aquaculture education, research and development.

The Ocean Beach-AUT collaboration covers education, research projects, staff and student exchange programmes, internships, post-doctoral research fellowships, funding applications, and development of other species such as fin fish, oysters, seaweed and forms of macro and micro algae.

High-skilled workforce and sustainable growth

Ocean Beach’s Managing Director, Blair Wolfgram, says more than ever there’s a need in New Zealand and Southland for industries such as aquaculture to sustainably grow export earnings and create high-skilled jobs and opportunities.

“One of the biggest obstacles is having enough trained and skilled people in the workforce. Because we are dealing with sensitive living organisms it’s critical our team understand the full life cycle and welfare of the species, they are responsible for. We can only authentically achieve this through high-quality, hands-on research and education.

“In our opinion AUT is one of the leading educators in this space, attracting the best in terms of lecturers, industry-partnerships and of course students. We have experienced this firsthand with Andrea being of the world experts in pāua (abalone) and Dr Ali Seyfoddin developing incredible feed delivery technology.”

Ocean Beach has also hired AUT biomedical science graduate, Mogana Mannivannan as a marine scientist and feed technician.

“Mogana has been great for our team in Bluff, bringing energy, commitment, innovation and a huge amount of marine science knowledge,” says Mr Wolfgram.

Professor Alfaro says virtually every wild fishery species is under pressure or undergoing significant change from acidification of the ocean through global warming. The research conducted at Ocean Beach will help breed resilient shellfish, fish, algae and seaweed and optimise their growth to help ensure a sustainable future.

Background

As well as pāua research in laboratories at its Auckland campus, AUT does research of the wild fishery including most recently in the Chatham Islands. It has also worked with New Zealand’s only other land based pāua farm, Moana Blue in Northland’s Ruakaka.

The New Zealand aquaculture industry currently generates $600 million in revenue (largely in exports) per annum.  The Government’s Aquaculture Strategy released less than 12 months ago, sets an ambitious target of increasing this to $3 billion in revenue by 2035.

Blair Wolfgram says in order to meet this target, which will create thousands of jobs and opportunities for New Zealanders it is essential that New Zealand’s industry partners with the science and research community to educate, train and commercialise aquaculture ideas discovered through joint research.

AUT and the Ocean Beach team are excited about the potential opportunities that will arise from this partnership and for the future of aquaculture in New Zealand

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