Seaweed could hold the secret to unlocking an entirely new industry in the Bay of Plenty.
A state-of-the-art aquaculture facility at Waikato University is breeding seaweed to help researchers harness its full potential.
Slimy green sea lettuce is good for the environment and good for your health.
"So yeah it's got huge potential," says seaweed biologist Dr Marie Magnusson.
The site is specially designed for seaweed and algae cultivation before the seaweed is returned to the ocean.
It is now one of the most high-tech aquaculture facilities in the world. Tanks can be harvested two to three times a week, producing nine-tonnes in a year. You can only imagine how quickly it would grow in an open water farm.
"I think there is a real interest in seaweed aquaculture nationally at the moment. There's a big drive to make it happen and to actually get seaweed into the ocean and established as an industry," Dr Magnusson says.
The seaweed works to suck carbon and other unwanted chemicals out of the water and could become an essential tool in the toolbox as we aim for carbon neutrality.
"We can grow this algae, both the fresh and the marine, in polluted water sources. Anywhere where you've got high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus," Dr Magnusson says.
That same piece of seaweed can then be hauled out of the water, dried out, and turned into a product.
"A lot of our research is trying to demonstrate what products are available, what are the feasible products for New Zealand. Then it's about business coming to the table," seaweed chemist Dr Christopher Glasson says.
Seaweed is a well-known superfood but it could also be turned into supplements for gut health or liquid fertiliser for the garden.
The industry is worth billions of dollar in Asia and the market is excited about another high-quality, New Zealand-made product.
"Asia is interested because New Zealand's got a clean, green image," Glasson says.
Dr Magnusson and Dr Glasson are exploring the idea of working with shellfish farms to grow seaweed during the offseason.
They hope to have a farm operational by the end of next year. And they will be well on their way to their seaweed dream.