RESEARCH PROPOSAL: Tuohu-ki-te-moana: Bow to the Ocean; Submersible open-ocean integrated multi-trophic aquaculture platforms
Development of Robust Open Ocean Aquaculture for the Production of Seaweed and Shellfish
Our outstanding research team includes
Through development of a high-tech mechanism for open-ocean aquaculture platform submersion, using renewable energy for operation and maintenance, this research project is expected to help catalyse the expansion of the New Zealand aquaculture sector into the 430-million-hectare high-energy EEZ. As such, it will play an important role in achieving the New Zealand government’s target of a $3 billion aquaculture industry by 2035. It will complement and leverage the excellent ongoing Cawthron Institute MBIE research programme on open-ocean aquaculture design, allowing these structures to be cheaper to construct (less strength required) and maintain (less wear and tear), more productive (access to deeper nutrients) and climate resilient (heatwave avoidance). Most importantly these structures will be better able to endure high-energy open-ocean environments.
This research expects to leverage international expertise through collaboration with, and co-funding from the Australian Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre. This includes the Climate Foundation Australia Ltd, which has pioneered research into deep-water seaweed aquaculture submersion in the Philippines.
The findings of this research will inform new aquaculture investments in New Zealand where clean, nutrient-rich waters provide a unique ability to produce high-quality kelp, shellfish and finfish aquaculture in addition to marine ecosystem services and kelp-derived carbon sequestration. This international and domestic investment would assist New Zealand to achieve its ambitious 2035 growth objective for aquaculture utilising a low-emissions production system.
The highly automated nature of submersible aquaculture platforms supports the transition of aquaculture to a knowledge intensive sector requiring skilled workforce capable of system and data management rather than physical on-site management. It will support further investment and employment in cloud-based system integration (e.g., meteorological forecasting).
New Zealand is well placed to become a world-leader in sustainable and innovative aquaculture. To realise this position however, the industry must be sustainable, productive, resilient, and inclusive. One way to achieve this goal is to make wider use of NZ’s marine exclusive economic zone (EEZ). By distributing aquaculture over a wider geographic area more communities can benefit economically from the industry (inclusivity). Similarly, a greater geographic distribution mitigates systemic risk to the industry by spreading the risk of localised events such as disease and adverse weather, that will increase due to climate change (resilience). The challenge of expansion to the open ocean is to achieve strong sustainability and productivity in the highly energetic marine environment that prevails across much of NZ’s EEZ.