Not many people thought small-town Ōpōtiki could pull off New Zealand's first open ocean mussel farm and find global buyers for its product.
But Open Ocean Whakatōhea Mussel Ōpōtiki has done it in just seven years and secured a possible $400 million per-year overseas opportunity.
The company will start exporting its popular greenshell mussels (Whakatōhea kutai), already sold in Pakn'Save and New World shops throughout the country, to the USA, from its new $35 million state-of-the-art mussel processing factory in Ōpōtiki.
It will produce 45 to 50 tonnes a day of kūtai (mussels) for national and international distribution.
When Te Ao Mārama asked Whakatōhea Māori Trust board member Te Kahautu Maxwell for his thoughts on the new exporting venture he said, "I am happy we have made our forefathers 'dream a reality to farm the oceans.
"I am happy that we are now exporting to America".
Jobs for whānau
Open Ocean - Whakatōhea Mussels Ōpōtiki chief executive Peter Vitasovich puts the overseas partnership down to Aotearoa having the best farming practices in the world.
He says the New Zealand native species just tastes good.
The company is now about to send 12.2m containers stuffed with about sixteen tonnes of frozen half-shell mussel in them that will go from the Whakatōhea moana to American plates.
So far, there are close to 90 staff at the mussel company and by 2025 there will be almost 280 jobs available, ranging range from production to managerial positions, with the help of a training scheme the company has to upskill and train whānau into different jobs throughout the company.
Wharengaro Tapara-Kurei of Whakatōhea and Amelia Austin of Ngāti Tuwharetoa both work at the factory and are happy to be employed and be able to take care of the whānau.
"We have had people move back home because of the employment opportunities," Austin said.
And Tapara-Kurei wanted to use this media opportunity to expose the great job opportunities for her whānau.
"The most important thing is we can support our families. We can come out of our homes and start looking for employment. That is us, whānau, let's do this."
Open Ocean Whakatōhea Mussel Ōpōtiki will send its first container on October 14.