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Turning the tide

open this image in new window: Bluetide Aquaculture

This article was published on 13 July 2020

Gaining access to key industry contacts and business support is helping turn the tide on the future of the endangered Toheroa, explains Bluetide Aquaculture’s Cody Taylor.

For the Bluetide Aquaculture team, taking on the C-Prize 2019 challenge was a no-brainer. 

The team at Callaghan Innovation have an increasing focus on sustainability, so we could see the C-Prize team playing a crucial role in helping Bluetide in its mission to develop a successful and sustainable Toheroa aquaculture industry.

Who we are

Bluetide Aquaculture is a business that evolved out of a fourth-year project we undertook as engineering students at the University of Waikato. For the project we created a system for sustainably farming Toheroa – the once thriving but now endangered native clam species.

What separates Bluetide’s technology is our mould design. A specially designed ‘cocoon’ for the Toheroa, the mould mimics the shellfish's natural habitat – all without the need for sand. These cocoons can be arranged in trays and placed either in the open ocean or kept in land-based aquaculture systems. 

This technology also allows us to improve aspects like harvest quality and quantity, survival rates and shellfish uniformity. We believe this pioneering technology can revitalise the once-booming Toheroa export industry, creating jobs and income all while rejuvenating a species.   

Why we got involved with C-Prize

As a team we’re relatively green when it comes to business, so being finalists in C-Prize has offered us support we couldn’t have gained elsewhere. Having access to key people and industry-leading companies, who all want to help you and your business grow, has been great.

Market validation, pitching to investors, how to be a leader in the workplace – while these skills are usually gained over time through experience, we’ve been given ‘crash courses’ in these and other skills through the likes of the C-Prize bootcamps and online sessions. It’s given us knowledge for now, and that we’ll use throughout our careers.

Our mentors, Justin and Peter, have been brutally honest and supportive of our venture. With their combined knowledge and keen interest in our business, they have looked at our company with fresh eyes. This has shone new light on many aspects of our business that we either need to address, or use to our advantage.  

The challenges

Like everyone, our team has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted our timelines and productivity. However, we used the downtime during levels 4 and 3 to get all our ducks in a row. 

This included making arrangements with Northland Iwi to harvest Toheroa spat for research purposes once travel restrictions eased, and ordering all the necessary equipment to assemble a fully functioning recirculating aquaculture system. This meant when we jumped to level 2 we were ready to go.

Learning to network has also been a learning curve for us. While none of us are introverts, we still tended to be on the quieter side when talking with other mentors and teams, and we quickly noticed this needed to change. While personal changes like these don't happen overnight we have noticed improvements within ourselves, and adding another member to our team has definitely helped.

What the future holds

In the next three years we want to see our technology operating at full capacity, with our system managing the complete lifecycle of the Toheroa, from spat production to fully sized harvestable adults. From there we’ll look at improving the technology and expanding the number of operating farms in Northland. 

Our ultimate goal: to apply our technology to a wide range of shellfish, including scallops, mussels, oysters, geoduck and other seafood delicacies. And no doubt there will still be lots of learning to be done along the way.