Probing kina's hidden secret

KINA GOLD: An East Coast research project will investigate the potential to extract compounds from kina that could be developed into food supplements to treat diabetes, heart disease and other serious conditions. Picture supplied
ONLY THE SCRAPS: Researchers from East Coast biotechnology company Hikurangi Bioactives and Cawthron Institute’s Bioactives Research Hub are well aware of the importance of kina as kaimoana in Tairawhiti. Their research will focus on utilising the parts of the kina that remain once the edible part has been removed. Picture supplied

THE spiky, discarded shells of seafood staple kina could have multimillion-dollar potential if an East Coast research project proves successful.

East Coast biotechnology company Hikurangi Bioactives is collaborating with Cawthron Institute’s Bioactives Research Hub to investigate kina’s therapeutic potential to treat diabetes, heart disease and other serious conditions.

The research will look into extracting valuable compounds from the spiky shells of the shellfish, regarded by most as a waste product.

The work has been awarded $300,000 over two years as part of the National Science Challenge’s Valuable Seas Programme.

“This project will produce the essential knowledge required to build a viable kina extracts industry in Tairawhiti,” said Cawthron Institute technical consultant Dr Matt Miller.

“The research will establish benchmarks for yield and natural variations of bioactive content in wild kina, and provide data supporting its efficacy as a health-promoting food supplement.”

The research will focus on using the parts of the kina that remain once the edible part has been removed.

“We are very mindful of the importance placed on kina by the hapu and whanau of the East Coast and around New Zealand,” said Dr Miller.

“This project has the potential to develop an industry around what at present is a waste product from the shellfish.”

Collaboration with Japan

Cawthron Institute has established a collaboration with Japanese diabetes researchers to assist with the project.

“We believe there is a supplement offering health benefits in the kina and it will be of real interest in large and growing markets in Asia — specifically China and Japan,” Dr Miller said.

“This could be the beginning of a successful and sustainable new niche aquaculture sector on the East Coast. Using good science to support community development is our aim.”

Hikurangi Bioactives is a branch of Hikurangi Enterprises, which has other research projects including developing hemp and kanuka products.

Managing director Manu Caddie said the funding could lead to another industry here.

“We are excited to work with local hapu to explore the health benefits and economic potential of what could be a developing industry in our region.

“Sea urchins, the family to which kina belong, typically achieve premium prices around the world.

“This is not the case for kina, partly because of its look but also because the way it tastes is challenging for some consumers overseas.

“We see huge potential for kina to provide a novel health-promoting supplement.

“We think it could be very beneficial for the treatment of diabetes, heart disease and inflammation — all of which are health issues of real significance within our community.”

The first stage will involve consultation with hapu and sharing more detailed information about the scope and potential of the research.

A number of hapu had already expressed interest in the project and hapu members had been engaged to advise and support the research with hapu, Mr Caddie said.

THE spiky, discarded shells of seafood staple kina could have multimillion-dollar potential if an East Coast research project proves successful.

East Coast biotechnology company Hikurangi Bioactives is collaborating with Cawthron Institute’s Bioactives Research Hub to investigate kina’s therapeutic potential to treat diabetes, heart disease and other serious conditions.

The research will look into extracting valuable compounds from the spiky shells of the shellfish, regarded by most as a waste product.

The work has been awarded $300,000 over two years as part of the National Science Challenge’s Valuable Seas Programme.

“This project will produce the essential knowledge required to build a viable kina extracts industry in Tairawhiti,” said Cawthron Institute technical consultant Dr Matt Miller.

“The research will establish benchmarks for yield and natural variations of bioactive content in wild kina, and provide data supporting its efficacy as a health-promoting food supplement.”

The research will focus on using the parts of the kina that remain once the edible part has been removed.

“We are very mindful of the importance placed on kina by the hapu and whanau of the East Coast and around New Zealand,” said Dr Miller.

“This project has the potential to develop an industry around what at present is a waste product from the shellfish.”

Collaboration with Japan

Cawthron Institute has established a collaboration with Japanese diabetes researchers to assist with the project.

“We believe there is a supplement offering health benefits in the kina and it will be of real interest in large and growing markets in Asia — specifically China and Japan,” Dr Miller said.

“This could be the beginning of a successful and sustainable new niche aquaculture sector on the East Coast. Using good science to support community development is our aim.”

Hikurangi Bioactives is a branch of Hikurangi Enterprises, which has other research projects including developing hemp and kanuka products.

Managing director Manu Caddie said the funding could lead to another industry here.

“We are excited to work with local hapu to explore the health benefits and economic potential of what could be a developing industry in our region.

“Sea urchins, the family to which kina belong, typically achieve premium prices around the world.

“This is not the case for kina, partly because of its look but also because the way it tastes is challenging for some consumers overseas.

“We see huge potential for kina to provide a novel health-promoting supplement.

“We think it could be very beneficial for the treatment of diabetes, heart disease and inflammation — all of which are health issues of real significance within our community.”

The first stage will involve consultation with hapu and sharing more detailed information about the scope and potential of the research.

A number of hapu had already expressed interest in the project and hapu members had been engaged to advise and support the research with hapu, Mr Caddie said.

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Keila Gotty, Hastings - 2 months ago
Leave our seafood alone! Stop trying to sell everything to Japan!! Our seafood is a taonga and is protected under the Treaty of Waitangi!!

Dee Seitz - 2 months ago
This is a potentially very useful project. There are swathes of small-sized and poorly-productive kina at several sites around the North Island coast and a massive cull is needed. Currently no economic incentives to do that - but this project offers an option if it is successful. The people who cry 'save our kina' need not be concerned because the cull will only improve the quality of remaining kina over time. A win-win for the fishery and for the local economy.

Sue Hill - 2 months ago
Oh look, we need employment in our rohe - forestry, farming what else is there? Sustainable, high-value and research into diabetes to boot.
Come on, not everyone lives in cities. Sometimes those who tend the home fires need more to live on than fresh air and maybe projects like this one could be part of the solution.

Sam Fox - 2 months ago
I don't mind discarding my spiky kina shells into the appropriate bins supplied throughout the district by Hikurangi Bioactives/CIBRH. It will be interesting to see where these stocks of kaimoana are been harvested from - here in some parts of the Te Tairawhiti region we have had a "Kaimoana Rahui" in place that forbids people from gathering kaimoana within a period of allocated calendar-dates, which enables us as a ropu/hapu/iwi to manage, sustain and improve our kaimoana stocks. I'm sure there are kina being harvested in other areas throughout Aotearoa. We never see data on kaimoana stocks taken from Tangaroa.

Stewart Puha - 1 month ago
Tumeke u guys, that's an employment opportunity on the Coast.
I am a commercial crayfisher and see the damage to the ecosystem the kina are causing first hand.
Areas are blacked out with kina and there is no seaweed. I set pots out from 8ft deep.
Originally I was thinking of gathering kina and moving them to a kapata kai, skinned-out areas or deeper reefs. I was also considering just smashing them to feed the fish stocks. However, I think I will wait and see what the outcome of your research turns up. I think it's a better option.
Kia ora koutou.

Slava - 22 days ago
We already produce the kina gold extract!! We sell it in New Zealand - there is no need to spend $300,000 on it. We can build a processing plant in Australia.