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Scion and AgriSea   

Designing waste into a resource 

Scion’s focus on the circular bioeconomy has positioned it as a leading voice in the transition to biomaterials and sustainable 



After 75 years of leading New Zealand's forest research, Scion remains a catalyst for change in biomanufacturing, biomaterials, bioenergy, waste utilisation, and ecosystem services. To advance this circular bioeconomy—eliminating waste, prolonging material use, and restoring ecosystems—Scion actively seeks collaboration partners. 


By teaming up with companies like AgriSea New Zealand, Scion is helping transform seaweed waste into high-value products, thereby fuelling innovation in forestry, marine, and the biobased sectors while advancing the circular economy. 


AgriSea provides the primary sector with a range of high value nutrition products made from seaweed. Farmers, growers and beekeepers use AgriSea soil, plant, animal and bee nutrition to stimulate the biology of the soil and biome of animals, which reduces the need for chemical inputs. 


Forestry is already recognised as a vital means of tackling climate change. Now, as national and global support builds for the circular bioeconomy concept, Scion’s focus on research for the forestry and biobased sectors has enabled it to become a leading voice. 


A circular bioeconomy designs out waste, keeps materials in use for longer, and regenerates ecosystems. 


Leading the transition to biomaterials


As General Manager Forests to Biobased Products, Florian Graichen is responsible for Scion’s work towards replacing petrochemicals and non-sustainable materials with products from trees and other biomaterials. 


His team supports the design of biomaterials to create products for the rapidly growing sustainability-conscious market, driven by the opportunities of climate change. 


“Climate change is the challenge of our generation. It is a global disruptor - economically, environmentally and socially,” says Florian. 


“However, climate change is also the opportunity of our generation. Countries and companies that are willing to embrace the opportunities that climate change presents by becoming less reliant on fossil fuels are likely to become the disruptors rather than be subject to disruption and uncertainty.” 


Value through diversification 

It is in this area of disruption that Scion is embracing opportunities to make an impact. 


“When we move from thinking traditionally about forestry to looking at how we can create new value and products from our renewable biomass, everything changes. Think waste from forests, woody debris and tree bark. In the circular bioeconomy, there is no such thing as waste – it simply becomes feedstock for other products while supporting economic growth and new high-value manufacturing sectors. Importantly, the new products will help to replace those made from fossil fuels,” he says. 


Repurposing waste 

AgriSea, an exemplar of New Zealand's commitment to research and technology, turns seaweed waste into a valuable resource through its collaboration with Scion. 


The Paeroa-based company has come a long way from its early years making liquid brewed seaweed for use by home gardeners. 


Clare Bradley, AgriSea CEO, and husband Tane (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato-Tainui), Chief Innovation Officer of AgriSea, say for New Zealand to have a meaningful and long-term sustainable seaweed sector we must focus on the uniqueness of our seaweed species, and attain product differentiation and high value uses. 


This is being achieved by taking what was previously the leftovers from AgriSea’s biostimulant production process, and turning it into nanocellulose. 


“We strongly believe that to achieve a vision for genuinely healthy land and water, we must explore approaches to valuing the soil, in a way that’s fundamentally different from the conventional methods today,” explains Clare. 


This transition away from chemical input needs science, industry and communities working together for change. 


Scion worked with AgriSea to innovate hydrogel from nanocellulose waste left over from AgriSea’s seaweed production system. This additional high-value product can be used for purposes including batteries, adhesives, biomedical supplies, and cosmetics. 


The collaboration followed a chance meeting at networking event Matariki X, where Clare and Tane were seated next to Scion science duo Marie-Joo Le Guen and Stefan Hill. 


Clare says the concept that anyone could make crystals out of seaweed was hard for them to compute in the beginning. 


“But Stefan and Marie-Joo are such awesome people, and we took a leap of faith to explore the potential for a commercial relationship on the back of that.” 


The world’s supply of nanocellulose is usually produced using wood pulp treated with harsh chemicals. Drawing on Scion’s wood pulping expertise, the AgriSea collaboration explored a way to create this versatile polymer from AgriSea’s process, which creates certified organic seaweed-based products. The result is an environmentally superior product and one that adds economic value to AgriSea’s business and the wider aquaculture industry. 


AgriSea is conscious of the role of seaweed and its importance as a taonga species. It is involved in trials to grow a sustainable seaweed supply, and use it to clean up waterways. 


The collaboration with Scion is opening opportunities to create returns economically as well as socially, environmentally and culturally from all of the raw material that AgriSea is licensed to use. 


Beneficial indigenous knowledge 

At this time Hēmi Rolleston (Bootcamp II) was serving as General Manager Te Ao Māori Services at Scion. He believes the principles of the circular bioeconomy are already embedded in Te Ao Māori so it’s not surprising that mātauranga Māori provides a useful guide for finding sustainable solutions to some of our biggest environmental challenges. 


“The combination of mātauranga Māori and mainstream science is where the magic happens. This is a unique point of difference for Aotearoa and of course the world.” 


Hēmi says that the AgriSea case study is a good example of Scion’s work that is focused on helping businesses develop new high-value products that offer an alternative to those made from fossil fuels, while also reducing waste and growing regional economies. 


“These partnerships, as well as collaboration with industries, iwi, and central and local government, are critical to driving innovation from New Zealand’s forestry and fibre sector to achieve impact.” 


Florian Graichen agrees. 


“Replacing energy, plastics and other fossil-heavy materials with lower-carbon alternatives, managing natural resources such as forests sustainably and re-thinking economic outcomes in terms other than just financial – these are our responsibilities at Scion” he says. 


Transitioning to a circular economy 

The world is moving towards a population of 10 billion people, every one of whom will require food, clothing, housing. In the future, all of this will need to be sourced through sustainable means, not fossil fuels. 


Scion's collaboration with AgriSea represents a comprehensive approach to sustainability, encompassing social, environmental, and economic facets, all while operating within our planet’s boundaries. Embracing a circular economy offers us the pathway to attain sustainable well-being in perfect harmony with our natural surroundings. 


Florian emphasises this as New Zealand's golden opportunity. 


"We excel in cultivating and sustainably producing renewable feedstock. With our favourable land, climate, and established bioeconomy, the time has come to shift away from the promotion of high-volume, single-market, low-value products. Instead, we should recognise the advantages of replacing conventional linear economic models with the more forward-thinking circular approach exemplified by AgriSea,” he concludes. 

“We strongly believe that to achieve a vision for genuinely healthy land and water, we must explore approaches to valuing the soil, in a way that's fundamentally different from a conventional method today.” 

Clare Bradley 
CEO, Agrisea
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