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Sanford scales up collagen extraction from fish skin in Marlborough

An aerial view of Sanford's new Bioactives plant in Blenheim.

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An aerial view of Sanford’s new Bioactives Centre.
Photo: Sanford / Supplied

New Zealand seafood company Sanford has scaled up its ability to create marine extracts with the opening of its $20 million Bioactives Centre just south of Blenheim.

The centre means new jobs for scientists and technicians with plans to employ up to 48 people – from forklift drivers up to research leads.

It will be the company’s base for manufacturing Greenshell mussel oil and powder and extracting collagen from fish skin alongside exploring new areas of marine extracts.

Sanford aquaculture technical advisor Anna Kleinmans said the collagen molecules from fish skin were turned into a nanofibre that was infused into beauty products.

“We start with the hoki skin that comes off our factory boats, these fish are caught out in the ocean and processed on the vessel and those skins normally go into fish meal, but instead of that, we take them here, and turn them into collagen.”

The drying room at Sanford Bioactives Centre.

The drying room at Sanford Bioactives Centre.
Photo: Supplied by Sanford / Steve Hussey

The frozen fish skins arrive at the Blenheim plant, are cleaned and chopped into smaller pieces.

“Then the skin goes into a tank full of a liquid through a process called solubilising which essentially turns it into jelly.”

After filtration, only pure collagen molecules remain, which is then freeze dried, ground into a powder and sold for use in cosmetic products.

“There’s research that shows it reduces wrinkles which is why people are quite interested in it, because it helps with skin elasticity and things like that.”

Under eye masks infused with marine collagen nanofibre.

Under eye masks infused with marine collagen nanofibre.
Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Kleinmans said scientists have worked on the extraction process over the last 18 months, it was originally created by Plant & Food and Sanford have since taken it from a lab scale and commercialised it.

Auckland-based company Nanolayr creates the collagen nanofibre which has been used in under eye masks, that have proven popular in the South Korean market.

Applied to wet skin, the mask only needs to be applied for five seconds for the collagen to be infused into the dermis.

Sanford general manager of innovation Andrew Stanley said the new Bioactives Centre was a game changer as it not only increased the company’s extraction capacity but allowed for the potential of new marine extracts to be explored.

“As an industry we can’t get bigger in terms of taking more fish out of the ocean, so what we’re really committed to is sustainably growing through utilisation, through getting great outcomes for the fish that God gave us and finding value in them.”

Sanford general manager of innovation Andrew Stanley says the new Bioactives Centre is a game changer which allows for increased extraction capacity and for the potential for new marine extracts to be explored.

Andrew Stanley says the new Bioactives Centre is a game changer.
Photo: Supplied by Sanford / Steve Hussey

The new facility was world-class, had been fully constructed by companies in the top of the South Island and was around eight times the size of its previous site, Stanley said.

“We’re blessed to have 130 commercial species that we deal with and a lot of those contain highly bioactive products or materials so there’s endless opportunities for finding value outcomes for those marine species.

“Hoki skins are a wonderful example, the skins traditionally haven’t been utilised as food so they’re underutilised but they’re full of wonderful collagen and that collagen actually is prized in cosmetics and cosmeceutical formats.”

Dried hoki skins before the collagen extraction process.

Dried hoki skins before the collagen extraction process.
Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce chief executive Pete Coldwell said it was well known the region produced 80 percent of the country’s wine, but it was not as commonly understood the Marlborough produced 65 percent of all commercially grown seafood in New Zealand.

“What this new opening shows is the level of innovation that’s coming into aquaculture, with companies like Sanford who are really driving productivity and technical scientific development.”

Much of the science at the new centre is being done alongside Cawthron, Plant & Food and Massey University.

Story Credit: rnz.co.nz

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