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A new world-first fermentation technology developed by Kiwi scientists is set to provide a multi-million-dollar export boost for New Zealand’s nutraceutical exports. 

The technology allows scientists to grow and extract bioactive compounds from a mushroom organism in a laboratory and fermentation process for use in health supplements – reducing the need to farm and process fully grown mushrooms.

The new method provides a more consistent level of bioactive ingredient for use in supplements and will pave the way for an entirely new local export industry built around extraction of molecules for other food and wellness products.

Scientists will use the new process to grow part of the root of the Ganoderma Lingzhi mushroom in under 10 days – which would normally take six months in the wild.

Using this new patented technology in New Zealand will open the door to a multi-million-dollar high-value export stream. 

The patented technology was developed over four years by Professor Yihuai Gao (pictured), Honorary Fellow at Riddet Institute, Massey University along with scientists at Callaghan Innovation. Professor Gao is also founder and chair of Auckland-based Alpha Group, which researches and produces functional health products from fungi, plants, marine life, fruit and vegetables, and other natural bio-resource raw materials. The company has invested over $6.5 million in research and the new fermentation plant in Auckland.

Ganoderma Lingzhi has been harvested in China for more than 2,000 years and is used in traditional Chinese medicine to boost the immune system, help treat depression and high blood pressure. Species of the Ganoderma mushroom grow in Aotearoa but not the Lingzhi species. Scientific studies show supplements made from the fungus also have anti-carcinogenic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Professor Gao says fermentation is one of the most exciting areas in global food development at the moment. “The ability to rapidly grow food in a laboratory that has a uniform bioactivity level and nutritional profile and is not exposed to variation as a result of inclement weather conditions, soil or climate change, offers significant potential for New Zealand.

“This technology will allow us to produce high-value functional food exports for the global market, expedite research and develop a wide range of other products derived from plants and mushrooms. These products could include plants or fungi that may not be able to be otherwise cultivated in New Zealand due to biosecurity barriers,” he says.


Tourism boost a bonus

Mike Arand, Alpha Group’s senior business advisor, says the company will fly in over 250 salespeople from their highest earning market, China, to view the new laboratory and process in a strategic move designed to boost product sales of the New Zealand-made product.

He says the group is one of the largest to arrive in the country, following the easing of travel restrictions from China, and is also set to boost regional tourism as they tour New Zealand during their stay.

“The sale of Alpha Group’s nutraceutical products has reached a significant scale in recent years and the new fermentation technology is set to transform our business operations in that market.

“Our investment in bringing hundreds of salespeople to New Zealand to showcase both the new process and the local environment is designed to provide a long-term return for the brand and the country’s export earnings,” Arand says.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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