From coffee to kelp

Rachel Cullimore came across Kelp Blue, a company that harvests cultivated kelp to produce ingredients for agriculture, pharmaceuticals and textiles, as she was researching content for her Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Aquaculture.
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Rachel Cullimore holds a piece of giant kelp, which she is researching for her postgraduate dissertation

“I'm working with a start-up in Namibia called Kelp Blue,” Rachel says. “They are growing Macrocystis pyrifera (giant kelp) off the coast of Luderitz.”

Rachel is investigating the growth and vertical biomass distribution of the plants to enable harvest forecasts and plans that will optimise yields.

“The study I have designed will involve measuring and weighing removed sections of kelp and looking at relationships between them to describe the morphology of the kelp in this environment,” she says.

“The growth and morphology of giant kelp is heavily impacted by its environment, and since it has never been grown in Namibia before, Kelp Blue need to understand how it's growing and how to best maintain and harvest the plants.”

Rachel’s journey to get here has been an interesting one. She has an undergraduate degree in graphic design from the UK and set up her own coffee business there before arriving in New Zealand five years ago.

“I fell in love with the ocean and diving and soon, I had my heart set on working with seaweed – a strange dream for most!” she says.

She enrolled to study remotely at NMIT to obtain a Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Aquaculture(external link) and whilst researching for an assignment, stumbled across Kelp Blue and discovered they were offering internships.

“I got in touch and before I knew it, I was set to do my dissertation here— it all happened very quickly!”

As Rachel’s educational background was not in science, she was concerned she might not keep up, but her NMIT tutors have been nothing but supportive.

“I have absolutely loved studying at NMIT, in fact, it doesn't really feel like studying when you find the content so interesting,” Rachel says.

“The tutors have been fantastic, and I feel the course has definitely given me real industry insights as well as academic gains.”

For more information about our aquaculture programmes, visit our website(external link).

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