The Government has committed funding to a mussel breeding programme described as holding the potential for the biggest single advance in aquaculture in about 40 years.
The Primary Growth Partnership fund will provide up to half of the money for the $26 million project, that would effectively domesticate the New Zealand greenshell mussel.
Sanford is leading the seven year project.
Managing director Eric Barratt says the aim is to end the mussel industry's total reliance on collecting wild spat each year for its farmed mussel stocks.
He says New Zealand has undertaken research on the life cycle of the mussel.
"It's a matter of then taking that technology and then saying how can we develop better families of mussels that grow quicker, or the right colour, or the right meat to shell ratio etc."
Mr Barratt said it's similar to the agricultural industry where farm animals are bred for the best quality product, and that's being applied to green shell mussels.
He said the Cawthron Institute in Nelson will start work soon on a large hatchery for the mussel breeding venture.