Momentum Towards a Blue Economy
Kia ora koutou,
Driving through Kumeū west of Auckland, on the day after last week’s flood, it was tragic to see businesspeople gutting their premises for repair less than 18-months after having to do so for the previous “one-in-100-year” rainfall event in August 2021. Immediate failures aside, it’s clear that tough decisions will need to be made to ensure resilience in a changing climate and effective management of our land and water. Such leadership has obvious relevance to Te Hono and we, as leaders, should have the fortitude to reimagine these challenges as opportunities for the New Zealand Food and Fibre sector, in order to ensure our primary industries adapt and thrive.
Resilience and leadership have been constant considerations since attending my first Te Hono Bootcamp at Aoraki in 2022. Witnessing the inevitable loss of the Tasman Glacier firsthand was a poignant experience I will never forget. Similarly, the challenges faced by our moana are very real to me, having studied marine science and worked across the New Zealand seafood industry. To meet these challenges, we now have an opportunity to grow a prosperous and regenerative blue economy for New Zealand.
At NewFish, we’re on a mission to create an entirely new industry, working with New Zealand’s world-class science and technology expertise to produce “blue-protein” from microalgae and enable consumers to eat towards abundance. The catalyst of this moonshot was a chance conversation between NewFish Co-Founder Alex Worker and Cawthron Institute CEO Volker Kuntzsch, during the Te Hono Bootcamp at Waitangi in 2021! Fast-forward to 2023 and NewFish and the Cawthron Institute have entered into a strategic partnership to realise the full potential of microalgae for human nutrition and to establish a meaningful blue economy for New Zealand.
Furthermore, in the months since Bootcamp we have seen a number of key developments, indicative of an evolving Food and Fibre sector and momentum towards this blue economy:
- New Zealand King Salmon’s Blue Endeavour project (our first open-ocean finfish aquaculture site) was approved by the Marlborough District Council, keeping the door open for large-scale open-ocean aquaculture in New Zealand;
- The Plant Variety Rights Act 2022 was passed into law, seeing both fungi and algae included within a redefinition of the word plant;
- The inaugural Aotearoa New Zealand Seaweed Association (ANZSA) AGM was held in Nelson, uniting those working to establish a New Zealand seaweed industry;
- Upside Foods’ (founded in 2015 as Memphis Meats) cultivated meat was cleared as safe for human consumption by the United States Food and Drug Administration, establishing a commercial pathway for foods that will fundamentally change global food production systems (being a question of when not if);
- The Government’s response to the He Waka Eke Noa consultation document and proposed split-gas farm-level emissions pricing scheme was announced, seeking to navigate a path forward for New Zealand’s agricultural industry in the face of persistent headwinds that may never wane.
The timing, and more so timelines, of these developments, are cause for both optimism and concern. With legislation and regulation a common thread, and in the wake of Jacinda Ardern’s resignation, I hope our leadership can rise to the occasion and enable a blue future for New Zealand.
Hei konā mai,
From left: Hamish Howard (Co-Founder), Toby Lane (CEO), Alex Worker (Co-Founder)