Prime Minister Opens New Mussel Plant

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
21 June 2010, at 1:00am

NEW ZEALAND - A new NZ$23 million mussel processing facility which will help provide the worlds largest half-shell production capacity has opened in Tauranga featuring groundbreaking technology developed in New Zealand.

Prime Minister, John Key officially opened North Island Mussel Processor’s (NIMPL’s) new factory which contains the world’s first automated mussel opening (AMO) machines.

NIMPL Director Peter Vitasovich says its new state-of-the-art Greenshell mussel processing plant will see export manufacturing capacity increase nearly three-fold thanks to the new AMO technology.

“Our new Tauranga factory houses 28 automated mussel opening (AMO) machines that each process up to 3600 mussels per hour – that’s more than 1.6 million mussels per 16 hour day.”

“When fully operational, NIMPL will boast the world’s largest capacity for half-shell production,” said Mr Vitasovich.

NIMPL chairman Geoff Burgess describes the joint venture as an innovative model for export cooperation and rationalisation, saying NIMPL will contribute to the industry’s ambitious plan of making New Zealand’s aquaculture sector a sustainable billion dollar industry by 2025 – a plan that has the full support of the government.

“Our ability to process this raw product in such high volumes at a lower cost base will increase New Zealand’s competitiveness in overseas markets and help build a sustainable model for the future,” said Mr Burgess.

Currently NIMPL’s existing factory operates with manual mussel openers – this factory will now redirect its focus on delivering value-added mussel products. The new factory (which contains the AMOs) will be mainly automated.

NIMPL is already one of Tauranga’s largest employers, with a total of approximately 220 staff – 35 being permanent and the balance of 185 being seasonal staff. A further 200 seasonal staff were contracted during the transitional phase to begin processing in the new AMO factory.

Greenshell mussels are a species unique to New Zealand’s pristine waters. These plump native shellfish combine a stunning iridescent green shell and are larger than their European Black Shell counterpart. Nutritionally, the New Zealand Greenshell mussel contains higher meat-to-shell ratio, protein per kilo and higher concentrations of health-giving Omega 3s.

“We are recognized here and internationally as producing healthy, high quality, environmentally sustainable aquaculture products,” said Mr Vitasovich.

Aquaculture accounts for approximately 20 per cent of the value of New Zealand’s total fisheries production, with Greenshell mussels being the greatest contributor to the growth of this industry.

Greenshell mussels represent 77 per cent of the New Zealand aquaculture sector, which is worth more than NZ$300 million.