New science platforms at IROs

Celebrating Seafood Safety. Watch more Cawthron videos on Vimeo

New six-year strategic science platforms have been established at the  Cawthron Institute to support research to improve the performance of New Zealand's seafood safety  and shellfish aquaculture, and at the Leather and Shoe Research Association (LASRA) to support hide and skin processing industries. These science platforms are part of the Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF), supporting programmes and infrastructure of enduring importance to New Zealand. In June, the Health Research Council also announced similar strategic research support for the Malaghan Institute and the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand  (see Ongoing commitment brings depth and breadth to independent health research).

Cawthron will host two platforms for six years. It will investigate seafood safety with the aim of managing all harvest risks for New Zealand's seafood industry and focus on enhancing, growing and securing New Zealand's shellfish aquaculture industry. LASRA will look into improving the quality, performance, and sustainability of part and fully-processed products generated by New Zealand's hide and skin processing industry.

Seafood Safety

The Seafood Safety Platform builds on over 15 years of R&D led by Cawthron in partnership with AgResearch, Plant and Food Research, and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research. A close and trusted working partnership has developed between researchers, seafood industry and regulators.

This proactive platform safeguards New Zealand’s $1.8B seafood export industry and reinforces its reputation for safe, premium quality food from well-managed growing-waters.

The programme assures industry of continued access to preferred international markets through management of pre- and post-harvest risks.

Threats to seafood quality and safety from harmful algal blooms (HABs) will be managed through the implementation of research that seeks to:

  • understand biological and hydrodynamic factors that drive HAB events;
  • advance molecular technologies to enhance detection, species identification and enumeration;
  • determine impacts of climate change on seafood safety; and
  • improve marine toxin analysis and toxicity assessment to ensure appropriate monitoring and regulation.

Threats to seafood quality and safety from pathogenic bacteria and viruses will be managed through research to:

  • understand bacterial contamination in growing waters;
  • minimize post-harvest bacterial contamination;
  • enhance virus monitoring and improve understanding of infectivity; and
  • develop new / modernized tools for microbial discrimination and source tracking.

Emerging and future threats will be managed by proactively identifying and assessing the risks posed.

Platform scientists represent New Zealand on international advisory panels such as the EU Food Safety Authority and the Association of Analytical Chemists. This helps ensure no unnecessary regulations are introduced with the extra costs that would bring to New Zealand industry – positioning New Zealand as a rule maker rather than a rule taker.

The Seafood Safety Platform is a critical asset to New Zealand’s seafood sector and ensures our seafood is safe globally. Have a look at Cawthron Institute: Celebrating seafood safety for some history on this work, or watch it on Vimeo .

Shellfish aquaculture

Aquaculture is the world's fastest growing primary sector and is identified by the Government and industry as a significant growth opportunity for New ZealandAquaculture NZ has a goal of achieving revenue of $1B by 2025 with innovation through R&D being the key.

Cawthron's Shellfish Aquaculture Platform will help industry push beyond this target, by:

  • enabling the sustainable growth of New Zealand's existing shellfish aquaculture industry through innovation along the value chain including reliable seed supply, improved genetics, precision farming methods and new products;
  • enabling new and emerging shellfish aquaculture industry including geoduck, flat oyster, and a pipeline of future species opportunities; and
  • securing shellfish aquaculture production with improved shellfish health management, disease risk mitigation, and biofouling management.

These goals will be achieved by continuing Cawthron’s ground-breaking work on domesticating New Zealand’s valuable shellfish species. This revolution will provide a reliable seed supply and enable selective breeding of these stocks, yielding higher productivity, quality, and market value. Where technical barriers hinder farming, Cawthron partners with industry to develop solutions. Securing these gains, new tools will manage the risk to aquaculture from threats and position the sector to react more effectively to future problems.

The Shellfish Aquaculture Platform is the hub of New Zealand shellfish aquaculture research. Cawthron Institute: Aquaculture facilities and expertise in shellfish early life history and breeding are unique. The multidisciplinary team has the critical mass for a truly holistic approach.

Export quality hides

The Export Quality Hides Platform aims to grow and secure New Zealand’s hide and skin processing industry. The industry is the primary value outlet for co-products from the meat processing industry and provides a significant contribution in export income to the New Zealand economy. However, a range of market challenges threaten the future of the industry if quality, performance, and sustainability of the product are unable to keep pace with demands across its diverse export markets.

To meet these rising expectations and demands, platform research focuses on improvements in quality, environmental sustainability, and performance to increase New Zealand’s global competitiveness, maximising the quality and value of each hide and skin, and developing a globally recognised and traceable standard of sustainable production that supports the credentials of the industry.

More specifically the platform will:

  • develop processes for leather manufacture which require less reagents and minimise discharge of waste. Alternative reagents and processes will be identified to reduce the environmental impact of leather processing;
  • analyse genetic markers for meat quality and other traits to quantify their effect on pelt quality; and
  • develop remote sensing technologies that allow features that affect quality to be quantified in real time.

A traceability system will be developed to identify the origin of New Zealand products in the market, in support of a chain of custody system. An online database will be developed to allow independent groups to verify origin.

Through improvements in the value of the meat industry’s most valuable co-product, the platform works to support and develop benefits across the entire farm system by establishing the position of leather as an important component in the future of farming, and minimising its contribution to the total carbon footprint.

Date posted: 30 July 2018

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