'Pest' seaweed could be used against cancer

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2012
Southland Times photo
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
Kiwi Wakame owner Rob Emett, at Bluff harbour, near where he harvests Undaria seaweed that may be used to produce cancer fighting drugs.

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A Southland seaweed could soon be used to produce cancer-fighting drugs.

The Invercargill business Kiwi Wakame is in talks with Australian-based biotechnology company Marinova to supply it with what is considered a pest, undaria seaweed.

Marinova, an innovative company dedicated to the development and manufacture of high purity seaweed, extracts a substance from the seaweed called fucoidan, which is used as an ingredient in some dietary supplement products.

Kiwi Wakame owner Rob Emett said the substance also had cancer-fighting properties and his company would supply between 10 to 20 tonnes per year to Marinova.

The Marinova company's website says it is recognised globally for the quality of its fucoidan extract, which it supplies to world-renowned research institutions and some of the world's largest pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies.

Marinova business development manager Kevin Krail said the company was in discussion with Kiwi Wakame. "It's a growing company working with brown seaweed - a raw material we are interested in," he said.

He had looked all around the world for a supply of the seaweed and had found Mr Emett's company. "New Zealand has clean waters and it's a high quality product that you can't get anywhere else in the world," he said.

Marinova's specialist fucoidan extraction facility in Tasmania was the first of its kind in the world.

Mr Emett holds permits from Environment Southland and Biosecurity New Zealand to harvest seaweed at Bluff, Stewart Island and the Otago coast.

He can take the seaweed only from man-made structures such as wharfs, wharf piles and rock walls, and not from the open seabed.

He harvests about half a tonne in five hours.

Mr Emett said he had been working as part of a team to eradicate undaria seaweed from Southland waters for 12 years.

However, when the rules changed two year ago, to allow commercial harvesting, he set up his business after his research found the seaweed was valued around the world for its nutritious properties, he said.

The business is based at Back Country Foods in Invercargill, where Mr Emett freeze dries the seaweed.

Mr Emett has also started to export other products he produces from the seaweed, such as salt and seasoning, to China.

His Wakame seasoning was being sold in NZ Focus stores in Hong Kong, he said.

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- The Southland Times

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