“We’re actively searching for appropriate new species to work on, and the main thing we’re interested in is market potential ”
It’s just like squid, only crunchy – with a bit that tastes like an oyster.
A unique blend of characteristics that makes geoduck a delicacy across Asia, could also see the funny-looking shellfish become the next big earner for New Zealand’s aquaculture industry.
As part of their new species strategy, which includes work on the flat oyster, the Cawthron Institute is helping drive the industry towards its billion dollar goal by experimenting with this high-value mollusc.
Cawthron senior scientist Nick King said the institute had already successfully produced small numbers of geoduck hatchery spat, and was now breeding a crop to be farmed experimentally by industry partners.
“We’re just getting ready to produce our first larval batch so we’ve got animals to play with and can give them to industry partners to test in their own industry systems,” Nick said.
“We’ve already got people who are keen on working with them and we’ll also be trying out some of our own ideas, seeing if we can develop some methods or technologies to allow us to grow them on mussel lines.”
The geoduck is already harvested from the wild in Golden Bay, suggesting NZ waters could suit commercial farming, but it is the market possibilities that make the species so attractive.
“We’re actively searching for appropriate new species to work on, and the main thing we’re interested in is market potential,” Nick said.
“We see that as a key driver to a species being successfully farmed and we identified the geoduck as a high value species.
“We’ve had reports of people receiving $35 per kg for live weight exported… and supply can almost never meet demand.
“So here’s a species worth a lot of money and we’re confident we can grow it in a hatchery okay.
“The challenge comes in the form of identifying ways to grow it on farms.”
Geoduck is already grown on sub tidal and intertidal farms in North America, but the infrastructure and water blasting required to harvest them from under one metre of silt would make this method incompatible with New Zealand law.
Instead, Cawthron are exploring three alternative possibilities.
“The first option is to plant them, sea ranching style, and leave until harvest,” Nick said.
“This option will have issues surrounding the RMA, but it may lead us to other options, perhaps planting on the seabed underneath farms.
“Another route is to use existing farm infrastructure and come up with a way of growing them on mussel lines. But that won’t be easy because they’re an unusual species.
“The third option is to grow them in a pond. It’s higher risk but can potentially turn a crop around quicker.”
The best option remains to be seen, but it is nice to have options.