Biotechnology company Hikurangi Bioactives is collaborating with seven East Coast hapū groups and the Cawthron Institute in Nelson, to realise the health benefits and stimulate Māori enterprise from wild-harvested kīna (Evechinus chloroticus).
This species contains a number of novel bioactives which may have therapeutic benefits, particularly from the the non-edible shell. These substances have been shown to be effective in treating inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and other serious conditions.
This project aims to help grow New Zealand’s blue economy by providing new options for high-value marine products. At the same time, it hopes to deliver economic benefits to rural communities and the regional economy.
The project aims to produce the essential knowledge required to build a viable kīna extracts industry in Te Tairāwhiti (East Coast of the North Island). This will be achieved by establishing yield and natural variations in the level of the bioactives in kīna sampled at various locations and seasons, and by producing data supporting efficacy as a health-promoting food supplement.
The first stage of the project involves consultation with hapū and sharing more detailed information with them about the scope and potential of the research. Four individual hapū and three hapū collectives have joined the project and hapū members have joined the project to provide advice and samples. Two other local entities, Ngati Porou Seafoods Ltd and Waiapu Investments are also participating. We are now half way through our seasonal variation and location analysis.
Cawthron is developing robust and reliable methods for measuring the bioactive compounds. The lab is now testing samples across Te Tairāwhiti on a seasonal basis. In the future, commercial testing for these will be available through Cawthron Analytical Services. Finally, we will be designing methods for extracting the bioactives that can be performed at a commercial scale. One of the most interesting extracts is present in the kīna shell, traditionally a waste product and sent to land-fill. This compound has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and chelating properties. It has also been investigated for its application to lung disease, exercise capacity, mitochondrial function (energy producers within cells), Alzheimer’s disease, as well as anti-oxidation properties.
We are working with Massey University to investigate the biological effects of the kina extracts using established models of inflammation and joint health. This work will provide evidence supporting the health-promoting properties of the extracts.
There is excitement about the potential for traditional rongoa to improve the wellbeing of local whanau while growing niche markets in the local economy. This project is the first stage of a long-term research plan that will provide opportunities for local kaitiaki to be part of the economic development of their region while controlling protection of their Foreshore and Seabed interests.