Almost $20 million is being invested into seeing if up to 600 tonnes of yellowtail kingfish a year can be farmed on land in Northland.
The $19.8m for the project, which will be based at the Niwa Marine Research Centre at Bream Bay, includes $6m from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) announced today by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.
Niwa will put in $7.84m and Northland Regional Council up to $6m towards the project.
Jones said the PGF is investing $6m in a land-based aquaculture pilot to see whether yellowtail kingfish can be commercially farmed in Northland.
He said a recirculating land-based aquaculture system will be built and operated at the Niwa Northland Marine Research Centre at Bream Bay. The system is a prototype to see if it is technically and economically feasible to grow 600 tonnes of yellowtail kingfish to market size on land each year.
Niwa has been experimenting with farming fish at the centre for more than 17 years.
"If proven, this system will produce high-value aquaculture products with global appeal that are produced sustainably and efficiently. World demand for sustainable products like kingfish is increasing, particularly for the high-end sushi market. Local restaurant suppliers have also shown a demand for kingfish if its supply and quality is consistent," Jones said.
Initially, 18 jobs in Northland will be created, he said, but if kingfish production is proven viable at 600 tonnes a year, it could lead to a full-scale 3000-tonne operation in five years with revenue estimated at $45m a year.
"Successful expansion will give the private sector the opportunity to invest in larger reticulating aquaculture operations, not only in Northland but nationwide. The knowledge gained through this initiative could contribute to the potential development of other land-based aquaculture which would complement the rest of the industry," he said.
Producing fish on land is sustainable, with modern recirculating systems able to recycle the bulk of water it uses.
"This is the type of innovation the PGF wants to invest in. It is testing technology that could bring major sustainable economic growth not only to Northland, but the rest of the country.
"Both central and local government supports high-value land-based aquaculture as a key driver of sustainable economic growth. The project aligns with the Government's aquaculture strategy and its goal of reaching $3 billion in annual aquaculture sales by 2035."
• Funding from the PGF is approved in principle and announced, after which contracts are negotiated. Some funding may depend on the completion of business cases. Payments are made once agreed milestones are met. These are set as part of contract negotiations and differ from project to project.