EXPORTING – New Zealand King Salmon – diving into sustainability

31 January 2017

The recently listed company aims to become a world renowned source of sustainable protein for people and pets alike.

Sustainable protein production is one of the biggest challenges facing humanity. Much of New Zealand’s economic future rests on this endeavour. International demand is massive, especially with increased incomes in India and China. Fish farming may be one solution. But it comes with a special set of challenges.

New Zealand King Salmon (NZKS) knows these challenges only too well. Last year the company opened three new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds. The decision went all the way to the High Court. So it’s not surprising the company takes sustainability and CSR very seriously. It is currently launching a new drive across all its operations – stepping up its work on sustainability to meet the demands of today’s markets.

Already New Zealand salmon is the first and only farmed salmon to gain the Green/’Best Choice’ rating from the globally respected Seafood Watch programme.

All NZKS facilities have gained Best Aquaculture Practices certification from the Global Aquaculture Alliance. And all feed ingredients come from sustainably certified fisheries. The company is a member of the Global Salmon Initiative. This is a collaboration between the world’s largest salmon producers to further improve sustainability in the industry.

Jemma McCowan, NZKS general manager marketing said: “We are extremely focused on sustainability. But it’s fair to say much of the work driven by public demand has been around water quality and the marine environment. We are acutely aware that our responsibilities and activities as a business extend beyond that. This latest work is about doing more, and telling people more about what we are doing, across all areas of sustainable business.”

Food exporting businesses like NZKS face increasing pressure to demonstrate sustainability and traceability.

Jemma says: “We supply some of the most sophisticated food markets in the world. The audience that we supply is at the very top in terms of how discerning and educated it is on sustainability. We know we have to exceed that audience’s expectations. It is vital to the success of our business.”

NZKS is planning for big things. The company listed on the New Zealand and Australian stock markets in October last year with an initial valuing of $155 million. 

One recent innovation is the launch of a pet food range created by its Omega Innovations arm. This uses off-cuts for freeze-dried salmon treats and wet and dry food for cats and dogs.

Omega Innovations teamed up with scientists from Massey University and Bioresource Processing Alliance (BPA) for the project. The BPA is supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The aim is to find better uses for biological waste and reduce the amount going to landfill.

Simon Thomas is Omega Innovations manager. He said the company has been working with pet food manufacturers, but no one wanted to take more raw materials. The new venture transforms a waste stream for disposal into a revenue stream for sale.

He said: “We produce hundreds of tonnes of material from our processing operations that was not being utilised. We have the ability to capture these items in a very fresh and high quality state. They are essentially all fit for human grade consumption. Previously they were going into things like offal. We identified these as excellent input items for our pet food range. Sustainability is ensuring the future use of all products and species. We want to ensure the products we generate are best utilised. It’s ensuring all parts of the animal are used.”

Emily King (née Dowding-Smith) is project lead for SBN’s Good Food Nation project. “The work New Zealand King Salmon is doing touches on some of the most pressing issues of our time,” she said. “New Zealand must balance sustainability, the demand for protein and the need to obtain high value income from our natural resources.”

“Utilising waste streams makes businesses more efficient. It requires cleaner production practices. It generates new lines of revenue and diversifies product lines. With new innovations there is now a lot of potential to convert waste into value added products.”

SBN is undertaking research into food waste in manufacturing. The aim is to gain better understanding of the volumes, types of waste and the flow of waste streams that larger food businesses have.

Not all ‘pre-consumer’ waste is edible or reusable. Preliminary research by SBN in 2016 indicated that most of it goes to deep landfill or stock feed. Often food makers can’t use the waste and in some cases how they can dispose of it is tightly regulated. But we found there is potential for parts of these waste streams to be better utilised. This could either be for energy or other food production where it’s safe to do so.

SBN is continuing this work with leading food businesses. It is supported by the businesses and the Auckland Council’s Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund. The intention is to survey the practices of at least 20 leading food businesses in the coming months.

Like to get involved? Contact james@sustainable.org.nz or emily@sustainable.org.nz