Aquaculture for all

Sanford hopes to strike gold from seafood extracts

Biotechnology Marine fish Mussels +5 more

The hidden properties of many species of New Zealand seafood, including greenshell mussels, will be explored and unlocked at a new marine extracts plant just opened in Blenheim, Marlborough.

two hands holding mussels
Sanford aims to extract valuable products from a range of seafood species, including greenshell mussels

As New Zealand's largest seafood company they have access to over 100 marine species from which to extract bioactives

The $20 million bioactives innovation centre is the brainchild of New Zealand’s largest seafood company, Sanford, and it will make the most of the beneficial properties of several of the country’s under-appreciated marine products.

Andrew Stanley, Sanford’s GM of innovation, said in a press release that the plant will do two key things. “Firstly, Sanford Bioactives will take marine products which we already know have beneficial properties. That’s products like greenshell mussel powder which has proven anti-inflammatory and joint health benefits. We already make it, we already sell it, it is very popular. Our new bioactives centre introduces new tech and equipment which gives us a chance to double and eventually quadruple our output.

“Secondly, there are the new areas of marine extracts and science we are going to explore. Some of these are confidential for commercial reasons, but the potential is huge, given that Sanford is a fishing and aquaculture company that works with more than 100 different marine species. We already know quite a bit about some of their hidden properties and we will be working to discover more. This science is being done with great partners like Cawthron, Plant & Food and Massey University. And our Blenheim plant will be a home for much of that work.”

Sanford CEO Peter Reidie says some of the products Sanford will be making in Blenheim can sound like science fiction the first time you hear about them.

“Hoki skin collagen is one of those. Sanford has been producing this at a relatively small scale. We extract the collagen from the hoki skins and then one of our partners turns it into a nanofibre. That fibre is then woven into beauty masks which melt on contact with damp skin, delivering the collagen deep into the dermis. These sell out in South Korea, showing that there is huge potential to grow and to make the most of a product, in this case a fish skin, which many people would previously have seen as waste.

“This all fits with Sanford’s strategy to improve the value utilisation of the entire fish and eliminate waste. We see this approach as key to sustainability and getting more value out of New Zealand’s precious seafood.”

The centres will also create up to 48 new jobs for scientists and technicians.

As Reidie says: “What we know already is very exciting – more jobs, better value for our seafood – but what we don’t know yet is equally exciting. What are the products of the future that will come out of this plant? They could be anything from new beauty products to compounds with medical benefits. There is so much potential from seafood such as our greenshell mussels, which are unique to New Zealand, and we can’t wait to see what our bioactives team will do in the future.”

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