'Turning gorse into gourmet': Plan to turn 'pest seaweed' into 'premium edible export'

A venture to turn "pest seaweed" into a "premium edible export" has been given around $75,000 funding by the Government. 

Coromandel company Wakame Fresh will receive the funding through the Government's $40 million Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund to investigate the commercial viability. 

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is contributing up to $75,200 and Wakame Fresh $114,182. 

The seaweed, also known as wakame, is often referred to as "the gorse of the sea". 

While cultivated in Asia as a delicacy, it is one of nine marine species on a list of the world's 100 worst invasive species.

It was introduced to New Zealand in the 1980s from cargo ships, and the weed is now widespread along the eastern and southern coastlines from Auckland to Bluff.

It is edible and can also be used to make fish food and fertiliser.

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."

The project aims to demonstrate the commercial viability of harvesting, processing and exporting edible seaweed products into Japan.

It started in May 2019 and is scheduled to wrap up in late 2019.