Marlborough is home to more than half of New Zealand's production of both Pacific Salmon and Greenshell Mussels. As a result, the aquaculture sector is a significant economic driver within the Marlborough business community, and across the Top of the South Island.
Based predominantly in the Marlborough Sounds, the industry provides significant employment and holds a great deal of potential for positively impacting communities, particularly in Picton and Havelock.
The Aquaculture Smart+Connected Group was formed in 2016, with the Marlborough-based Marine Farming Association (MFA) acting as a secretariat. The group is primarily industry-driven, with major corporate members playing an active role. Aquaculture New Zealand (AQNZ), the national industry body, is also an active member.
The Group's structure comprises two Working Groups, with the Value and Innovation Group focused on facilitating industry research and innovation, value addition and diversification into new products and species, while the Harmony Group is engaged in community consultation, the promotion of seafood consumption and the management of the industry's social and environmental footprint.
Some notable successes that have been achieved since 2016 include:
Blue Mussels - the development of blue mussel processing, including through a successful application for funding from the Provincial Growth Fund. Prior to this initiative, Blue Mussels were a zero-value by-product of Greenshell Mussel farming.
Aquaculture Week - the creation of a week-long festival leading up to the Havelock Mussel Festival, held annually in March and incorporating food festivals, industry showcases and aquaculture science exhibitions.
Signature dishes - the development of signature Marlborough dishes, incorporating locally-produced seafood.
Aquaculture New Zealand Annual Conference - the hosting in 2018 and 2019 of the national Aquaculture New Zealand Conference at the Marlborough Convention Centre in Blenheim.
Initiatives under development include:
Waste minimisation - various projects to extract value from by-products and remaining biomass resources, reduce packaging and other waste to landfill, and recycle viable materials such as decommissioned mussel floats.
Technology application - the development and deployment of Artificial Intelligence and other technologies for remote monitoring, data transmission and environmental management on marine farms.