Cawthron Institute's science platforms

Cawthron receives $5 million per year for 2 science platforms – Seafood safety and Shellfish aquaculture. On this page is the public statement from our contract with Cawthron.

Seafood safety ($2M per year)

The Seafood Safety Platform builds on over 15 years of R&D led by Cawthron in partnership with AgResearch, Plant and Food Research and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research. A close and trusted working partnership has developed between researchers, seafood industry and regulators.

This proactive Platform safeguards New Zealand’s $1.8B seafood export industry and reinforces its reputation for safe, premium quality food from well managed growing-waters.

This programme assures industry of continued access to preferred international markets through management of pre- and post-harvest risks.

As a result of this Platform, threats to seafood quality and safety from harmful algal blooms (HABs) will be managed ($1M pa) through implementation of research that seeks to understand biological and hydrodynamic factors that drive HAB events ($150k pa), advance molecular technologies to enhance detection, species identification and enumeration ($162k pa), determine impacts of climate change on seafood safety ($148k pa) and improve marine toxin analysis, toxicity assessment to ensure appropriate monitoring and regulation ($544k pa).

Threats to seafood quality and safety from pathogenic bacteria and viruses will be managed ($808k pa) through research to understand bacterial contamination in growing waters ($200k pa), minimize post-harvest bacterial contamination ($200k pa), enhance virus monitoring and improve understanding of infectivity ($348k pa) and develop new / modernized tools for microbial discrimination and source tracking ($62k pa).

Emerging and future threats will be managed ($111k pa) by proactively identifying and assessing the risks posed.

Platform scientists represent New Zealand on international advisory panels such as the EU Food Safety Authority and the Association of Analytical Chemists. This helps ensure no unnecessary regulations are introduced with the extra costs that would bring to New Zealand industry – positioning New Zealand as a rule maker rather than a rule taker.

The Seafood Safety Platform is a critical asset to New Zealand’s seafood sector and ensures our seafood is safe globally.

Shellfish aquaculture ($3M per year)

Aquaculture is the world's fastest growing primary sector and is identified by NZ Government and industry as a significant growth opportunity for New Zealand. Aquaculture NZ has a goal of achieving revenue of $1B by 2025.

Cawthron Institute's Shellfish Aquaculture Platform will help industry push beyond this target, by:

  • Enabling the sustainable growth of NZ's existing shellfish aquaculture industry through innovation along the value chain including reliable seed supply, improved genetics, precision farming methods and new products ($1.8m pa)
  • Enabling new and emerging shellfish aquaculture industry including geoduck, flat oyster and a pipeline of future species opportunities ($480k pa)
  • Securing shellfish aquaculture production with improved shellfish health management, disease risk mitigation and biofouling management ($720k pa)

These goals will be achieved by continuing our ground-breaking work on domesticating our valuable shellfish species. This revolution will provide a reliable seed supply and enable selective breeding of these stocks, yielding higher productivity, quality, and market value. Where technical barriers hinder farming, we partner with industry to develop solutions. Securing these gains, new tools will manage the risk to aquaculture from threats, and position the sector to react more effectively to future problems.

The Shellfish Aquaculture Platform is the hub of NZ shellfish aquaculture research. Our facilities and expertise in shellfish early life history and breeding are unique. Our multidisciplinary team has the critical mass for a truly holistic approach. We work with crown research institutes (Plant & Food Research, AgResearch), NZ universities, and international teams from around the world.

Māori and our industry partners are critical as research collaborators and as end-users. The companies we work with represent the bulk of NZ’s shellfish aquaculture. Their facilities at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park will enable them to use this research to benefit NZ.