Seaweed expert backs plan to turn it into food export

A seaweed expert is boasting about the benefits of a pest algae being made into a premium edible export. 

Coromandel company Wakame Fresh has been given $75,000 to progress the initiative. 

Victoria University chemistry professor Richard Furneaux says it will benefit people and the planet.

"These are sea vegetables and they contain lots of trace elements they collect from the sea, so that's a sustainable resource."

Dr Furneaux says the leaves and stems are a diet staple in Japan, where there is more demand than supply.

"It contains a lot of trace elements and our bodies need those. It actually is just a healthy vegetable."

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the Wakame Fresh team are "turning gorse into gourmet". 

"This fund provides a single gateway for farmers and growers to apply for investment in a greater range of projects that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits that flow through to all Kiwis."

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said a number of people, including investors and researchers, are interested in the project's trial and its results. 

"Aquaculture is a growth industry for this country and has the potential to play a more significant role in our economy. It's currently worth $600 million a year and employs over 3000 people," he said. 

"We want to be the most productive, sustainable country in the world. Projects like this will contribute to New Zealand's reputation in sustainable and innovative aquaculture."