VIDEO: From earthquakes to sourcing strife - the challenges to open the world’s newest omega-3 fish oil refinery

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Omega-3 fish oil supplier SeaDragon overcame a raft of challenges to open the world's newest refinery, with the firm now hopeful it can start recouping some of its NZ$11m investment.

As you can see in the video interview above with sales director Campbell Berry-Kilgour, the New Zealand firm faced additional construction hurdles due to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, as well as then having to overcome challenges in procuring high quality tuna oil.

However, the Nelson-based company has recently signed a supply agreement for approximately 500,000 to 750,000kg of crude tuna oil from the Indian Ocean over the next 12 months, along with 500,000 to 1,000,000kg from the South Pacific, South East Asia and South America.

The focus now is very much on securing significant sales, especially in light of recent guidance to shareholders – which includes honey firm Comvita – that the company is forecasting a loss in the region of $4.3m-$4.5m for the year ending March 31, 2017.

This result is a reflection of the time it has taken to transition the business from its legacy Omega-2 business to Omega-3 fish oils.

Japan capacity

As Berry-Kilgour points out in the video, a considerable amount of time has also been spent ensuring the refined oil meets a number of regulatory requirements for multiple markets, while also exploring potential new uses for its high DHA oils.

He says he is particularly encouraged by the response he has received in Japan where existing refineries are running close to, and in some cases over, capacity.

The Nelson refinery can run for 24-hours a day with many of the processes fully automated. The company believes it has the potential to generate NZ$50m annual sales and has the capacity to refine up to 5,000 tonnes of oil each year.

However, the company doesn’t expect to reach production in the next financial year.

One of Berry-Kilgour’s key ambitions for the next 12 months is for a New Zealand brand to launch the country’s first omega-3 products containing wholly New Zealand-refined oils.

Take a look at the video to hear him talk about the challenges the new refinery has posed, as well as the considerable opportunities he believes it offers.

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