FMG clients Tane and Clare Bradley have been making waves in the agriculture industry with some exciting research and development.

FMG client and Paeroa based seaweed innovation company AgriSea is working on an exciting two-year trial to test the water cleaning abilities of seaweed.

The trial at Kopu marine precinct in the Coromandel is in partnership with the University of Waikato and is backed by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.

Three ponds totalling 60 square metres will grow the locally present green seaweed species Ulva, drawing water from the Waihou Estuary, beside the Firth of Thames in the Hauraki Gulf.

“The seaweed will act as a sponge and filter feed on excess minerals like Nitrogen, Phosphorous and other heavy metals – in short cleaning up the water, which is then returned to the sea, filtered and clean,” says AgriSea Managing Director Tane Bradley.

It's estimated that up to 50 tonnes of dry Ulva per hectare could be produced from a scaled-up facility, providing the biomass for added value products.

"There’s a growing desire to explore innovative projects such as this, not only for their environmental benefits but as potential commercial harvest of seaweed for food, bio stimulants and high value bio actives,” says Bradley

The Ulva will be cultivated at the University of Waikato’s aquaculture facility where researchers will use DNA barcoding to confirm its genetic identity.

The bulk of the investment of $697,000 is from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund, with $108,000 from AgriSea and $150,000 from the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust (AGMARDT).

Thames-Coromandel District Council is gifting the land lease for the project, with support from Ngati Maru and Ngati Hako. Hauraki District Council, Waikato regional council and Te Waka are also supporting this project.

“Local Iwi are heavily invested in the health and wellbeing of our waterways and if this pilot proves successful, will look to upscale the on-land bio-remedial systems in the Hauraki area,” says Tane Bradley.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says the project has the potential to be an environmentally friendly way to improve water quality, create jobs in the science sector, revitalise our waterways and improve our on-land farming systems.

“This project supports sustainability, which is also in line with the Government’s Aquaculture Strategy. Seaweeds are being increasingly recognised for their potential,” says Damien O”Connor.

The aims of this proof-of-concept research support many of the goals set out in Fit for a Better World, the Government’s 10-year food and fibre sector roadmap aimed at lifting productivity, sustainability and creating jobs to drive New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

AgriSea was established by husband-and-wife duo, Keith Atwood and Jill Bradley in 1996. They had an innovative idea to harvest New Zealand seaweed and create biostimulant products which in turn enhance plant and animal growth.