The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is putting money into developing more robust mussel floats, to allow the marine farms to be anchored further out to sea.
Between 500 and 1500 floats are lost from mussel farms at top of the South Island each year, costing at least $500,000 each year, according to data from the last 10 years.
Plastic mussel floats can occasionally come loose due to rough weather or sea conditions.
The ministry will pay half the cost of the $145,000 one-year research trial, which will involve aquaculture company SS Floats and support from Marine Farming Association.
MPI director of investment programmes Steve Penno said the project could help the industry boost its sustainability, while saving time and money.
"If this project is successful it will mean one less source of plastic in our marine environment," Penno said in a statement.
Lead designer Paul Smith said the old design, which has been used for the past 40 years, had worked well with how mussel farming started out in sheltered bays.
"However, the industry's move to more exposed waters has driven our need to come up with a new design."
SS Floats is hoping to devise a new float that can withstand the unpredictability of open waters, better than the existing floats.
They will be tested in the open waters of Golden, Tasman and Pegasus bays and off the Coromandel coast.
Trial floats were working well so far in local waters, Smith said.
"We now need to test them in different parts of the country with more exposed waters."
Marine Farming Association general manager Ned Wells said it was an expensive task for companies to go around collecting loose floats.