Independent evaluation of SPATnz

SPATnz was a 7-year Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Sanford Ltd. It finished in late 2019. Read about the results of an independent evaluation of the programme.

Background to the SPATnz programme

SPATnz aimed to transform New Zealand’s Greenshell mussel industry. In the past, New Zealand's mussel farming industry has used spat (baby mussels) collected from the wild. Wild spat can vary in quantity and quality.

SPATnz aimed to selectively breed high-value Greenshell mussels. This would give a consistent supply of mussels with qualities demanded by premium markets.

SPATnz was a 7-year Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme between:

  • the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
  • Sanford Ltd.

The programme won the Marine Farming Association Research and Development Award in 2016. In 2017 it won a New Zealand Innovation Award.

Find out more about the SPATnz programme

Evaluation of SPATnz achievements

As part of its monitoring process for PGP programmes, MPI commissioned an independent evaluation. This looked at:

  • outcomes and benefits
  • programme execution
  • lessons learnt.

What the evaluation found

  • The evaluation found that SPATnz was a major success. It made a "transformational change", and strengthened New Zealand's place as a world leader in mussel aquaculture.
  • SPATnz is an "exemplar" programme that balanced science and commercialisation. It used an "adaptive and systematic approach to problem-solving".
  • The programme developed a method to produce hatchery-reared Greenshell mussels. These can be produced at commercial scale and a commercially viable cost.
  • Without government investment, a project like this would not have been possible because of the risk involved.
  • SPATnz mussels can be bred for key qualities. These can include more meat, stronger shells, vibrant colours, or better resilience against biosecurity threats. SPATnz mussels grow up to twice as fast as those caught from the wild.
  • By using SPATnz spat, growers can seed ropes in suitable growing sites at higher density.
  • Mussel breeds can be developed for specialised uses such as the high-value nutraceutical market.
  • The programme was well managed, with strong leadership and a high-calibre research team.
  • SPATnz's culture was critical to the programme's success. The collaboration between MPI, Cawthron (research provider), and Sanford was also essential.
  • SPATnz has created jobs and increased retention of specialist skills within New Zealand.t

The SPATnz evaluation report [PDF, 1.5 MB]

SPATnz lessons

Lessons learnt include the importance of:

  • industry investment in research
  • programme teams and steering groups having the right culture
  • programme teams and steering groups having people with the right skills, including a mix of technical and strategic skills
  • participants understanding a programme's issues and risks
  • programme timeframes, budgets, and individual projects being flexible and adaptable
  • consistent resourcing to encourage collaboration, goodwill, trust, and the retention of skills.
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