Urchinomics Aotearoa to tackle New Zealand kina barrens overpopulation

Following the success of their joint pilot project to create a high-value aquaculture industry from kinas, Urchinomics and EnviroStrat announce their new collaboration.
Empty barren urchin (left) and ranched urchin (right) from Urchinomics land-based aquaculture.

Empty barren urchin (left) and Urchinomics' ranched urchin (right). Urchinomics Aotearoa will remove malnourished kina from the seafloor and convert them into premium 'uni' while helping kelp forests to recover.

Photo: Urchinomics.

The global sea urchin (kina) ranching and kelp restoration company Urchinomics and the environmental project developer and advisory firm EnviroStrat announced the launching of Urchinomics Aotearoa. The new collaborative business aims to tackle the overpopulation of kina barrens and the ecological and climatic problems they cause in New Zealand, where they have already decimated kelp forest ecosystems throughout Aotearoa (Maori name for NZ).

This announcement follows the recent Urchinomics appointments in New Zealand, naming Mawae Morton as non-executive chair and strategic advisor, and Maru Samuels as in-country lead. The new company is expected to begin operations in the coming months, with several key locations already under consideration for initial restoration activities.

Improving the health of the ocean and creating local employment

Urchinomics Aotearoa builds on a successful 18-month pilot project led by EnviroStrat with investment from EnviroStrat itself, impact investors and the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund managed by the Ministry of Primary Industries of New Zealand.

This pilot - Kinanomics, in which Urchinomics also collaborated - tested the technical feasibility, market demand, and environmental impact opportunities through kelp restoration. Urchinomics Aotearoa will now focus on harvesting excessive kina (sea urchins) that have degraded New Zealand's kelp forests.

Through land-based aquaculture, the new company will improve the condition of those malnourished sea urchins by converting them into premium kina roe, or 'uni', in 6 to 12 weeks. Moreover, as a result of removing urchins from the seafloor, helps kelp forests to recover. Thus, Urchinomics Aotearoa will not only improve the health of the ocean, but by working with local fishermen and divers, it will also create local employment opportunities.

A revolutionary endeavour

Commenting on the launching of Urchinomics Aotearoa, Urchinomics President Giles Cadman said it marks a significant milestone in its mission to restore vital marine ecosystems. "By combining Urchinomics' innovative approach to restoring kelp forests and producing high-value kina, alongside EnviroStrat's experience leading the pilot, and their expertise in sustainable development, we are set to make a substantial impact on Aotearoa’s marine biodiversity and climate change challenges," he said.

A perspective shared by Perry Bevin, the CEO of Urchinomics. "Working with EnviroStrat enables us to scale our efforts and leverage their deep understanding of environmental sustainability, and their relationships with iwi (tribes), stakeholders and the government in New Zealand," he said. "Together, we aim to restore ecologically degraded kina barrens into thriving habitats, providing environmental benefits and economic opportunities for iwi and local communities."

Finally, EnviroStrat's CEO, Dr. Nigel Bradly, also highlighted the potential of the collaboration. "EnviroStrat is excited to partner with Urchinomics in this revolutionary endeavour, following our successful collaboration through the pilot over the past 18 months," he stated. "Our joint expertise supports our shared vision of restored and resilient ocean ecosystems. We are committed to this partnership as a model for ecological and economic regeneration."

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