The Centre for Reproduction and Genomics aquaculture workshops
The Centre for Reproduction and Genomics seek to begin a discussions about how we might synergise the expertise in agricultural and marine productive systems that reside within New Zealand’s universities, CRIs and aquaculture companies to establish a national collaborative research platform focused on using genomic approaches to enhance New Zealand’s burgeoning aquaculture fisheries.
Investment signals from both government and industry indicate that there will be significant, increasing, investment in this area via MSI, MFish, industry, and government/industry joint ventures (e.g. PGP and SIL). Thus, ultimately we are seeking to identify potential future partners with whom we can establish collaborative initiatives to help bolster the economic development of this key industry over the coming decade and beyond.
CRG Aquaculture workshop held 10 June 2011
Information from the workshop [PDF, 2.4MB]
Group discussion key points
- These discussions are the start of a larger conversation amongst a variety of parties within the aquaculture industry with the view to gather a community of like-minded individuals who seek to use genomic research, with selective breeding approaches, as a key enabler of accelerated product improvement and diversification that will build sustained economic growth in the sector.
- Key motivator of the workshop was to look at various programs running within the aquaculture industry and to discuss how genomic technologies currently and soon to be available can enable the aquaculture industry to grow being the NZ$1 billion by 2025.
- With limited funds and a strongly competitive environment within NZ market, there is a thought that a group or consortium approach could realistically go to government with an industry voice “here is a market need, this is what our response is going to be, these are the empowering tools we need make the change and this is how it is going to happen over the next 5-10 years.”
- One of the topics, which did not come through clearly in the workshop, was that genomics is not as dollar costly as in the past. A suggestion to industry would be to sequence everything; it does not cost a lot and it is getting cheaper. For example the genome sequence for Pacific oyster was completed in 2010 and it is likely that with this resource the identifying genes involved in resistance or susceptibility to herpes virus (which is currently badly affecting the NZ oyster industry) can be detected.
- Genomic technology is now so cheap that the dollar cost of doing the full genomics on a select few ‘elite’ individuals and imputation across pedigrees versus straight microsatellite parentage is going to intersect within the next year of two – this community needs to continue discussions with the aquaculture industry to ensure that this message is taken up and that programs utilize the approaches with the greatest net benefit wherever possible.
- There is an opportunity to reach out further to other parts of the aquaculture industry not represented at the workshop; with some optimism that the industry would consider pooling a portion of resources into the collective basket to try and make something bigger than individual programs.
- If the NZ aquaculture industry does not invest in genomic selection approaches we may be left behind. Other nations are already well advanced in this area, with programs in Atlantic salmon and oyster for example already underway and obtaining significant gains in e.g. disease resistance.
- There was an acknowledgement that research investment into aquaculture had not been well spent in the past, or perhaps more accurately the advantage that research had conferred was not protected. Some felt that they had spent the money getting the stock right and then the research was lost overseas, further to this thought however it was acknowledge that the kiwifruit industry had similar issues which were overcome through brand control and production standards. Whilst you cannot brand a genetic type you can control the brand.
- Decision makers within the aquaculture industry need to be advised that selective breeding requires knowledge of parentage – the parentage tools can be provided by GenomNZ somewhere in the region of $20 per sample. As indicated above, there will soon be an intersection between the cost of straight parentage and more sophisticated genomic selection methodologies.
- There was some feeling that industry should view the international market place as end user rather than NZ market place. We can help identify the genetic basis of traits of economic importance to given markets, but we first need to know what the market demands and desires.
- Aim to provide a high value product for boutique markets – realising that what the market really wants can actually be different to what industry believe market wants (ie. NZ lamb in Waitrose and Tesco’s case study), also understanding that we cannot compete on volume.
- Agreed that another workshop in six months would be beneficial – date TBC.
- Next workshop invite people from industry and beyond with knowledge of markets and marketing so we can better understand what the product needs to be. There also needs to be discussion with respect to a whole of NZ brand and how we can position the industry to leverage from that base by developing product that encompasses that brand’s value.
- Acknowledgement and thanks to our sponsors, AgResearch, University of Otago and in particular the Dunedin City Council.