Alistair Jerrett (Science Group Leader, Plant & Food Research) won the Researcher Entrepreneur Award for his work with Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH). PSH were also the winners of the People’s Choice Supreme Award. Alistair and Plant & Food Research General Manager Danette Olsen talk about the work to find new ways to harvest fish commercially – techniques that are humane, avoid bycatch of smaller fish and deliver fish that are rested and in excellent condition.
Point of interest: Precision Seafood Harvesting is a consortium of Plant & Food Research, the Ministry for Primary Industries and industry partners.
You could sum up Alistair’s work in one sentence, which is helping the seafood industry become more sustainable and more profitable.
Live fish transport project that started very early on in my career – in the 80s – that was a great project – great sort of learning exercise because not only did we get to interact with the fish and the fishing industry, we had to understand about the physiology of the fish.
He’s very good at taking a whole lot of different pieces of seemingly unrelated science and drawing those together in order to come up with a solution. He sort of asked the question, “I wonder what goes on inside the trawl net?”, and so he made his own underwater camera in order to see what is going on. And so one of the things that Alistair has done is really go back to the animal that we’re working with – and what does a fish need in order to be captured in a way that preserves its quality?
We expressly looked for researchers who are ‘can do’ people and they’re quite happy with a skillsaw one day and in the lab the next. And so if you want innovations, it’s just been one big constant rolling front.
He’s very focused on delivering solutions to industry, so he’s not particularly interested in doing science for the sake of it. He’s got a real clear vision about what he wants to achieve for the seafood industry.
I grew up with my Dad saying, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not making anything,” so I guess I have a very wide tolerance for failure if you like.
He’s developed various – I guess – inventions that are going to help the industry. So he’s developed a product called AQUI-S, which is an anaesthetic that keeps salmon calm when they’re harvested. Alistair’s had some very successful collaborations with the seafood industry through building trust with the different partners. For the seafood industry to have invested $52 million in the Primary Growth Partnership Programme, I think that is an incredible achievement. It’s going to enable New Zealand products to really brand themselves as sustainably harvested products targeting that real premium part of the international seafood market.
I think my team – my group – all know that they’re changing the world, that fishing is not going to be the same after their efforts.
Video courtesy of Kiwi Innovation Network Limited
© Kiwi Innovation Network Limited, 2013