Opunake students’ fertiliser business blossoms

Brody Neilson bottles up some of the seaweed fertiliser ready for sale.

Students at Opunake High School in Taranaki are proving persistence and determination pays off, with their seaweed fertiliser project going from strength to strength.

The project was originally thought up in late 2021 when some of the students noticed how much seaweed washed up on their local beach and decided to have a go at making it into fertiliser. They also planned to only use glass bottles and jars donated by the community to bottle their product.

Unfortunately, their plans were hampered by Covid supply chain issues, followed by storm damage to the foundation of the shed they had bought with funding from the Glass Packaging Forum.

Opunake High School learning support Pauline Sandford says they remained undeterred and finally got the shed built and project, now called Sea 45, off the ground a little over a year ago.

“It’s been really successful, and the boys sell their product in three local stores now and also attend a few markets. Our next stage of the business is to hopefully purchase a permanent stall or stand at the school gate to sell the boys’ products and the vegetable plants they grow,” Pauline says.

She says they have kept to their original method of only using donated glass bottles and jars, which they fill in their shed.

Over the summer they sold around 150 bottles as well as many litres to members of the community who brought their own containers, Pauline says. “Proceeds from the sales go towards further equipment, tools etc, as we are trying to turn all the gardens at the school into fully edible. They also donate plants and seaweed fertiliser to our local rest home and to local families.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity for them and provides lifetime skills. The TV interview, on Seven Sharp, last year about their small business has made them quite famous around town,” Pauline says.

Glass Packaging Forum Scheme Manager Dominic Salmon says it’s wonderful to see that the project has not only continued but grown. “Hats off to these young men for their determination and hard work. They have tapped into an abundant resource to make something which is helping their school and community, while reusing glass containers too. Ka pai!”