September 02, 2016
Ngai Tahu food store reveals fish oil substitute
A plant-like organism found in a Ngai Tahu mahinga kai is being tipped as the basis for a multi-million dollar health supplement industry.
Landcare Research scientist Phil Novis has been granted funding to conduct further research into the commercial potential of the alga harvested from the Awarua Wetland in Southland.
He says Trachydiscus Awa9/2 could offer a vegetarian alternative to fish oil, which is the basis for a $450 million a year global industry.
The alga contains high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA, a high-value, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid.
Dr Novis says because the alga is new to science and its ecology is poorly understood, he will conduct a field study to understand its environment and how it affects EPA production.
Samples from the wetland will be gathered by a Ngai Tahu researcher and sent for testing at Landcare Research’s laboratories in Lincoln.
Dr Novis says the project fulfills a long held desire to develop research aligned with Vision Matauranga values.
He says as well as a fish oil substitute, the alga might also be grown for aquaculture feed.
The research is to be funded for the next three years by the Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge, hosted by Callaghan Innovation.
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