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Wild-harvested wakame export venture makes progress

16 December 2019

An exciting local venture to export high quality, edible seaweed ‘wakame’ from Coromandel Harbour to Japan is making good progress.

(Picture: Wakame Fresh directors Lance Townsend (left) and Lucas Evans cutting undaria seaweed in the Coromandel Harbour).

Coromandel Town company Wakame Fresh this year received a government grant to help it turn a particular type of seaweed undaria, which grows on mussel barge lines, into a premium edible export product (wakame).

You can read more about how Wakame Fresh successfully obtained the $75.000 grant from the Ministry for Primary Industries-administered Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund (SFFF Fund) to help investigate the commercial viability of harvesting, processing and exporting wakame to Japan, which is the world’s largest wakame market, in our media release here.

In December 2019, our Council hosted a gathering of key representatives from the aquaculture industry, government, iwi and universities, where Wakame Fresh managing director Lucas Evans presented a report on the feasibility of exporting Wakame to Japan.

"The Japanese seaweed market has an estimated annual value of more than $US 2 billion and there's a real opportunity for our Coromandel product to be a high-value offering," Mr Evans says.

"The feasibility report had led to a rapid increase in our knowledge and understanding of the salted wakame market in Japan and the methods available to produce this in New Zealand," he says.

“This project is a significant initiative relating to the development of the New Zealand seaweed sector that offers economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits, not only to the Thames-Coromandel District but also nationally for New Zealand,” Mr Evans says.

“The feasibility study, which was presented to stakeholders,  identifies the significant challenges for New Zealand to overcome, including distance to market, knowledge of production techniques and the market, and competitors who have production cost advantages along with centuries of accumulated experience.

"Given the track record New Zealand has of innovating to solve problems and develop new aquaculture solutions, Wakame Fresh remains optimistic we can overcome many of these challenges. It will require significant investment of resources, time and energy, but the potential benefits available to New Zealand if this commercial application of undaria is indeed viable, will be significant," Mr Evans says.

Next year, Wakame Fresh will build on its 2019 research with a commercial pilot programme within the Hauraki Gulf.

Our Council has supported Wakame Fresh in developing initial contacts for the funding opportunities and by helping locate a suitable site at Coromandel Town to base its processing operations, along with hosting the December gathering to mark completion of the feasibility study.

Learn more about Wakame Fresh founded in 2012 in Coromandel Town on its website.

Read more about the SFFF Fund here.

You can read about our Council's economic development contribution to aquaculture through our Productivity Plan

Wakame Fresh Managing Director Lucas Evans presents the Whakatiputipu Feasibility Report on 6 December 2019. 

Mayor Sandra Goudie tries wakame in the Coromandel Harbour.