New aquaculture project delivery team formed from experienced industry veterans

In the current uncertain environment there is a renewed global push for food security, domestic food production and reduced reliance on imports. With this comes an increase in demand for recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) for land-based aquaculture solutions.

A new aquaculture team has formed from industry veterans to help the aquaculture industry to continue with the sustainable growth needed to feed 9.5 billion people by 2050.

SmartAqua and Wiley, with Australian bases and a global footprint have teamed up, combining decades of international experience in the aquafarming and seafood processing sector to provide turnkey services for land-based aquaculture, recirculating aquaculture systems project management, processing plant design and construction.

SmartAqua has a 26-year history in aquaculture consulting around the globe, with a growing focus on land-based farming and processing operations. Wiley has navigated the food facility project delivery business for over a century with a large, experienced engineering, design, and delivery team.

The Wiley/SmartAqua team are working on multiple projects with some larger players in the RAS space, as well as existing sea cage operators. They have seen international travel restrictions due to COVID-19 cause a massive decline in seafood import and export – both from the supply and demand side. As a result, we have seen a global push for domestic food production for food security as countries can no longer rely on the import market.

Alastair Smart, MD of SmartAqua said this joint approach makes for a great team. “SmartAqua have worked with Wiley over many years. With the rapid expansion into land-based farming and the need for turnkey project management of a land-based facility integrated with processing, led to us deciding to formally merge our skillsets.

Wiley’s Logan Ashmole, senior project manager said the relationship is working well. “We are seeing an increasing number of proposed RAS projects, particularly for salmon-farming – there are more than 50 RAS proposed projects (and counting) to farm salmon on land. The total estimated production of these announced projects up to 2050 is equal to 25 per cent of total current salmon production at around 600,000 tonnes.”

Joseph Tuma, SmartAqua’s RAS Specialist, elaborated further on the reasons for growth in the land-based aquaculture sector.

“There is a misconception that the RAS concept is still under early development, when in fact the sea cage salmon industry receives their supply of larger and larger smolt from their RAS facilities to provide the 2.4M tonnes of annual salmon production,” he said. “We have seen smolt sizes evolve from 30g to 100g to 150g, and now in some cases to 0.5-1kg smolt in order to shorten the sea phase and manage risks in the sea, especially around sea lice. The tech is there, and the move to holding fish a little longer to reach sizes of 4-5kg is about managing the scale of the business. Studies have shown that the capex is similar to sea farming (don’t forget you still need a RAS facility for smolt production besides) and there are no expensive lease and licence fees required for sea cage operations. There are challenges, but in our opinion, the future of RAS fish production is positive and complements sea cage production by spreading risk.”

“In general, one of the key strengths of RAS is the local production. If there is one insight to be taken from the global COVID-19 pandemic that has rocked the world this year, it is the need to strengthen domestic, sustainable food production and we look forward to our partnership with SmartAqua to help the aquaculture industry as it continues to grow in the protein market,” said Ashmole

Barramundi farm taps new markets to combat COVID crisis

The world’s largest barramundi producer is now selling direct to the public after losing its restaurant and export markets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MainStream Aquaculture, which produced more than 40 million fish last year, has more than doubled its retail sales of its premium Infinity Blue barramundi, and established an online store and commenced weekly farm gate sales at its Wyndham farm, just 30 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD.

MainStream managing director, Boris Musa, said while the pandemic had “significantly disrupted” the business’s traditional supply channels, including exports to 25 countries, it had accelerated plans to build a new customer base through direct sales.

“It was always an aspiration to develop that side of the business to forge a closer connection with our  customers. The supply chain dislocation caused by COVID-19 has provided us with an opportunity to create direct consumer channels,” Musa said.

“Smart people say you should never waste a crisis, and this has been a dramatic event that required decisive action and new way of operating to keep the lights on and staff employed. We are a far better business now and are poised to emerge stronger after COVID-19.

“One of the most exciting aspects has been the large percentage of repeat customers. They are obviously enjoying the product and our meal suggestions. We have had some really large orders, with people spending upwards of $500.”

While customers would typically pay about $180 per kg for the premium Infinity Blue barramundi at Australia’s top restaurants, online and farm gate prices are as little as $35 per kg, with delivery from farm to plate possible a day after harvest.

Farm gate customers also have the opportunity to catch a rare glimpse of MainStream’s Golden Barramundi, a collector’s item, with fish keepers paying up to US$20,000 a fish to keep the animals in private aquariums.

Musa said the business was embarking on a selective breeding program with the intention of adding the Golden Barramundi to its retail menu.

“We have isolated the genes that will enable us to produce the fish on a reliable basis. We are expecting huge demand because it has a whiter fillet and incredible taste, and also because of its striking gold colouring,” he said.

While adapting to its own business challenges, MainStream has also stepped up its philanthropic commitments since the pandemic, joining forces with seafood wholesale partners in Sydney to donate produce to out-of-work hospitality workers, and Melbourne-based charity From Us 2 You to help feed the homeless.

“It was a very simple decision to help out during these difficult times,” Musa said.

Aquaculture comp open for entries

Established in 2001, the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW’s (RAS) Sydney Royal Aquaculture competition has been celebrating excellence for just under two decades.

Providing a platform for quality products to be recognised; the competition helps to maintain the highest industry standards, providing invaluable exhibitor feedback and ultimately driving the industry forward.

Focusing on Sydney Rock Oysters and Prawns, the competition aims to help boost these categories ensuring seafood feast like those consumed across the country this Australia Day are the best quality possible.

Sydney Royal Aquaculture Chair of judges, John Susman says the competition provides a unique opportunity for producers to showcase their products.

“Our role at the Sydney Royal Aquaculture competition is to steward excellence by reviewing the quality of seafoods produced and recognising excellence when it is presented,” Mr Susman said.

“As the quality of the exhibits continues to improve the role the RAS has played in providing this stewardship must be recognised.”

In a bid to bring attention to Australian aquaculture, this year’s Sydney Royal Aquaculture Competition, Sydney Rock Oyster and Prawn Judging will once again be judged live at the iconic Sydney Royal Easter Show on Friday, 3rd of April from  8am-12pm.

A unique opportunity, the live judging provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse at some of the most experienced and respected aquaculture judges in action as they award the best oysters and prawns in Australia.

Entries are now open and encourage all producers within the aquaculture industry to enter.

Entries close on Wednesday 19 February.

Why industrial gases are important in fish farming

Fish is a nourishing, healthy food that is popular throughout the world. However, as the planet’s population grows, fish stocks in some oceans are dwindling. One way to address this shortage is fish farms. Popular in Europe, especially Nordic countries, aquaculture also occurs throughout Australia – from the tropical north to the more temperate climes of Tasmania.

Like any commercial venture, there are many facets to make it a successful enterprise. When it comes to fish farming, an essential ingredient are various industrial gases, which have many applications in aquaculture – from hatching the eggs through to when the final product is shipped for sale.

Air Liquide is a gas specialist that has a lot of information and experience when it comes to fish farming. Its Tasmanian sales representative, Grant Stingel, works closely with the industry, not only as a supplier of gases, but also giving advice on how much, what type and how often a certain gas needs to be applied to the various production processes.

The most prolific gas used in fish farming is oxygen. There are two main reasons it’s needed. The most obvious is to sustain the life of the fish as they hatch and are grown. The other is a little more interesting.

READ MORE: Cryogenics offers alternative freezing solutions

“During the production of farmed fish, one of the high cost inputs is the food,” said Stingel. “It can cost up to $2,000 a tonne or more depending on the species and feed type.

Maintaining a stable level of oxygen in the tank increases the fishes’ metabolism, which in turn increases the conversion of food into fish mass. So the Feed Conversion Rate (FCR) reduces, meaning lower feed costs per kilogram of fish.

“And if you’re talking tonnes of fish, you’re talking tonnes of food per day. In the larger aquaculture systems, maintaining stable oxygen levels in the tanks will increase production. If you can increase the growth of the fish each day by adding oxygen, this reduces the time the fish are in the water, which in turn increases efficiencies within the whole production cycle.

“Typically, modern land-based aquaculture farms use what is called a Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS). This is essentially a water treatment plant to circulate and reuse the water. This plant uses pumps to push water through a series of filters to help purify the water before going back into the fish tanks,” said Stingel. “Oxygen is also used in this process to produce ozone to sterilise the water.

“In the inlet water to each of the ponds or tanks, the oxygen level is elevated by injecting oxygen, typically using a pressurised oxygen dissolver, to 120 to 140 per cent of normal saturation, depending on the biomass. This ensures that the respiration demands from the fish are taken care of and a stable growing environment is achieved.”

There are other applications where oxygen is necessary. Just before the fish are harvested, whether in ponds or sea cages, higher doses of oxygen are needed due to the fish being crowded into a small amount of water within the harvest area. This ensures that the fish are not as stressed before processing, giving a better end product.

Also, in some farms, oxygen is used to supersaturate baths of water to treat the fish for pest and disease, such as sea lice.

With all the oxygen being used, what are the costs involved? Not as much as you would think, said Stingel.

“Oxygen is typically only about one or two per cent of the cost of your production but it’s very important,” he said. “It is an essential element to the fish farming process. In some cases, oxygen can be seen as just a commodity, but oxygen used efficiently can also add benefits to your production.

“Oxygen supply to fish farms is essential so we have engineering support available,” he said. “As far as technical support, we can calculate how much oxygen you will need for the quantity of fish in each system. Based on the calculated oxygen required, we also offer advice on the oxygen dissolving system best suited for the application. Measuring the efficiency of your existing oxygenation system is also something Air Liquide can offer.”

Other gases are also used once the fish have been processed. Oxygen goes from being the hero to the enemy once the fish are ready to be sent to Australian supermarkets or exported.

“After harvest, we use other industrial gases for packaging fish products,” said Stingel. “Some aquaculture companies use Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP). This is a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide injected and sealed inside the trays often seen on the shelf at your local supermarket.”

The carbon dioxide inhibits bacterial growth, which will increase shelf life for the end product.

The nitrogen is to displace the oxygen and also maintain the package integrity so that it looks good on the supermarket shelf.

Another industrial gas used in the processing phase is liquid nitrogen, which is used to snap freeze the fish products by sending it through a freezing tunnel, which sprays the gas onto the product. This achieves a better quality product when thawed. This is because when a product is snap frozen, the cell structure of the food is maintained, meaning when thawed, the fish not only looks good, but tastes fresh.

“Even when it comes to the presentation of the food we can help. For example, dry ice produced from liquid carbon dioxide is used to add a bit of theatre at serving counters in restaurants or markets,” said Stingel. “As the dry ice thaws, vapour is formed, giving off a nice smoke effect. Dry ice is also good for keeping the product cold and fresh.”

In almost every stage in the production of fish in aquaculture systems there is potential to use an industrial gas of some type whether it is oxygen, nitrogen, argon or CO2. But the use of the various gases doesn’t stop there. Air Liquide can also provide gases for other, practical uses.

“The other application for industrial gases is for maintaining plant and equipment,” said Stingel. “With quite a lot of machinery involved in the process, you will also need oxygen and acetylene for heating and cutting, argon gas mixtures for welding, and LPG for heating and maybe also powering forklifts.”

Food and agriculture technology and products market – global forecast to 2023

Increase in demand and consumption of livestock-based products and seafood, the rise in consumer awareness about food safety, and demand for agricultural production due to the increasing population are projected to drive the overall growth of the food and agriculture technology and products market, according to the Food & Agriculture Technology and Products Market by Industry And Region – Global Forecast to 2023 report just released.

The global food and agriculture technology and products market size is projected to grow from $708 billion in 2018 to $1.044 trillion by 2023, at a CAGR of 8.1 per cent during the forecast period. The food and agriculture technology and products market is driven by various factors such as an increase in demand and consumption of livestock-based products and seafood, rise in consumer awareness about food safety, governments’ support to adopt modern agricultural techniques, increase in demand for convenience, packaged, and processed food products, and demand for agricultural production due to the increasing population. However, the overall fragmented agriculture industry, lack of coordination between market stakeholders, and improper enforcement of regulatory laws and supporting infrastructure in developing countries are projected to hinder the growth of the market.

The food and beverage processing equipment segment is projected to hold the largest market share in the food and beverage industry for the food and agriculture technology and products market.

The food and beverage processing equipment market is projected to grow, due to the rise in the number of investments by manufacturers in this market, growing food demand, and the growing support by governments. Further, increasing demand for bakery and dairy products and the growth of the beverage industry are also expected to drive the demand for food & beverage processing equipment for faster and more efficient processing.

The aquaculture products segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period in the animal industry for the food and agriculture technology and products market.

The global aquaculture production has grown rapidly during the past decades.The rise in the demand for seafood has led to the expansion of the aquaculture industry.

Several products are being introduced in the market to widen the companies’ consumer base and ensure food security. Innovations in aquaculture technology and the introduction of new species contribute significantly to the growth of the global aquaculture segment.

The Asia Pacific is projected to be the fastest-growing region in the cold chain subindustry for the food and agriculture technology and products market.

The market in Asia Pacific is projected to be fastest-growing, due to the increasing demand for perishable foods in the region.Countries such as India and China lack access to these cold chain requirements and are, therefore, unable to maintain cold chain integrity.

Increasing awareness about the prevention of food wastage before consumption, the growth of the organized retail sector, rising consumer demand for perishable foods, and government support and initiatives indicate the significant growth potential for the cold chain industry in the region. Furthermore, the increasing number of food companies and the introduction of favorable policies by the government across countries are contributing to the development of the refrigerated transport market in the Asia Pacific region by creating their own distribution networks with capable refrigerated transport facilities.

In-depth interviews were conducted with Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), marketing directors, food & beverage companies, agricultural products & equipment companies, and executives from various key organizations operating in the food & agriculture technology and products market.
• By Company Type: Tier 1: 18 per cent, Tier 2: 36 per cent, and Tier 3: 46 per cent
• By Designation: C-level: 30 per cent, D-level: 20 per cent, and Managers: 50 per cent
• By Region: North America: 23per cent, Europe: 16 per cent, Asia Pacific: 46 per cent, and RoW: 15 per cent

Research Coverage
The study covers the food & agriculture technology and products market across segments.It aims at estimating the market size and its growth potential across different industries such as animal, agriculture, cold chain, food & beverages, and cannabis, and region.

The study also includes an in-depth competitive analysis of key players in the market, along with their company profiles, key observations related to product and business offerings, recent developments, and key market strategies.ß

Support extended for prawn project

A multi-billion dollar prawn aquaculture project, expected to create 1,600 jobs in Northern Australia, has been granted a renewal of its Major Project Status.

Project Sea Dragon will produce Black Tiger prawns, mainly for the Asian export market, and involves five sites in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said her government will renew support for the project, being developed by Seafarms Group.

“This project is expected to generate $3 billion in export revenue, helping to boost our economy further,” Andrews said. “Stage 1 of the project is expected to create 1,000 jobs – at full scale this will rise to 1,600 jobs.

“Ultimately, the project will involve construction of about 10,000 hectares of ponds with the project to span more than 90 years, and about 15,000 tonnes per annum of prawns will be produced in the project’s first full stage of development.”

The project includes a partnership with major international seafood company Nissui, and has strong support from Indigenous stakeholders and local communities who will benefit from jobs, training and protection of sites and the environment.

This Major Project Status renewal comes as the Liberal National Government announced $420,000 in funding to develop a comprehensive plan for the aquaculture industry in Northern Australia.

Project Sea Dragon is land-based and has five core sites. The Legune Station prawn farm in the Northern Territory will be supported by a wild-caught prawn stocking and quarantine centre at Exmouth, WA; a Core Breeding Centre and Broodstock Maturation Centre at Bynoe Harbour near Darwin; a commercial hatchery at Gunn Point near Darwin and a processing plant at Kununurra, WA.

Over the next 12 months researchers from James Cook University will work with CSIRO, Blueshift Consulting, the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association, Australian Prawn Farmers Association and the Indigenous Land Corporation to develop the plan.

The Northern Territory and Western Australian Governments are also providing priority support to the project.

Entries for aquaculture comp open

Entries for the 2019 Sydney Royal Aquaculture competition are now open and encouraging Australian Sydney Rock oyster and prawn producers to take the first step towards medal winning glory by entering now.

Established in 2001, the Sydney Royal Aquaculture competition, a highly regarded seafood competition in Australia, judges the best of the best in Australian aquaculture and will devote this year’s competitions to the growth of Australian oysters and prawns.

For the first time in the competition’s history, judging will be held live at the Sydney Royal Easter Show on Friday 12 April, allowing Show patrons a glimpse into the Sydney Royal judging process for Sydney Rock oyster and Australian grown prawn classes.

Sydney Royal Fine Food Committee Chair, Lachlan Bowtell, says the public-facing event is a great opportunity to show what the Sydney Royal Fine Food awards are all about, “The competition will demonstrate the judging process under the strictest guidelines of any food competition in the country, it’s exciting to be a part of these awards, it’s not just a label on the product, there are strict standards to win our awards – not easy but well worth the effort,” Bowtell said.

Sydney Royal Aquaculture chair of judges, John Susman also alludes to the value these competitions provide through judges feedback, “As one of the fastest growing sectors in aquaculture, it is important that prawn farmers can rely on the Sydney Royal Aquaculture competition to provide them with a clear guide to the culinary performance of their crop”
“The prawn and oyster classes at Sydney Royal are judges by a group of leading industry experts, to a standard against which consumers, the trade and growers can all aspire to excellence.”

“With the major retailers in Australia now recognizing the value of an RAS medal in defining quality, the Sydney Royal is the benchmark of quality for farmed prawns and Sydney Rock oysters in Australia.”

Judging will take place April 12, with champion announcements on April 17 2019 at the annual Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Entries close February 27 2019.

Federal funding announced for aquaculture development in northern Australia

A $420,000 project funded by the federal government aims at expanding the aquaculture industry in northern Australia.

The Northern Australian Aquaculture Industry Situational Analysis has been commissioned by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia.

Over the next 12 months, researchers from James Cook University will work with the CSIRO, Blueshift Consulting, the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association, Australian Prawn Farmers Association and the Indigenous Land Corporation to develop a comprehensive aquaculture plan.

Federal resources and northern Australia minister Matt Canavan announced details of the project – to be led by James Cook University – in Townsville.

“Aquaculture is already worth more than $240 million a year in Northern Australia but we believe it can be further expanded and this study will help map out future developments,” Canavan said.

“It will examine issues including market and investment opportunities, jobs and skills, biosecurity, animal health, and environmental considerations.”

Federal member for Dawson George Christensen said he welcomed funding for an emerging industry in the region.

“Aquaculture is a growing industry in centres like Bowen and the Burdekin and I have met with a number of current and prospective proponents in recent years,” Christensen said.

“There is the potential to create hundreds of jobs in regions that desperately need them, and this investment by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia in putting together a plan for future developments will be welcomed with open arms.”

Canavan said Northern Australia is well-placed to benefit from growing world demand for sustainably sourced seafood farmed in freshwater and marine locations.

“Australian aquaculture production grew by more than 50 per cent between 2006–07 and 2016–17 to almost 94,000 tonnes, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

“National aquaculture production in 2016-17 was $1.3 billion. That included $120 million in Queensland, $90 million in Western Australia and $34 million in the Northern Territory.

“Those figures are good but I want to see aquaculture in Northern Australia grow further, providing jobs and income for northern communities in often remote areas.”

Canavan said this is the third aquaculture project funded by the CRC for Developing Northern Australia.

“It highlights the strategic importance of the aquaculture industry to growing jobs and opportunities in Northern Australia,’’ he said.

“Overall, the Coalition Government’s has committed $75 million over 10 years to the CRC for Developing Northern Australia for industry-led research collaborations in agriculture and food, health service delivery, and Traditional Owner-led business development.”

Queensland government announces aquaculture development areas in Rockhampton

The Queensland government has declared two Rockhampton region sites as prime targets to play a part in Queensland’s booming aquaculture industry.

State minister for agricultural industry development and fisheries Mark Furner today announced six land-based marine Aquaculture Development Areas (ADAs).

The state government announcement includes more than 3700 hectares of land in the Rockhampton region, including sites at sites at Casuarina Creek and Raglan Creek

“The Queensland government supports the future development and growth of an ecologically sustainable, diverse and innovative aquaculture industry,” minister Furner said.

“Our proximity to Asian markets, reputation for quality seafood and increased demand for Australian native fish species means Queensland is well-positioned to produce high value aquaculture products.

“Identifying areas suitable for aquaculture development is an important initiative to grow the industry, and will bring more jobs in a stronger regional Queensland economy.

Furner said the ADAs will help identify areas with potential for land-based marine aquaculture development and provide investors with a list of locations suitable for projects.

“Investors will not be limited to the identified areas and will still have the option to explore other parts of Queensland for land-based marine aquaculture development,” he said.

“The sites were identified in consultation with industry, government and affected landholders and would have the least environmental impact and land-use constraints for operating an aquaculture business.”

State development, manufacturing infrastructure and planning minister Cameron Dick said the ADAs provide a strong starting point for local government in considering the most appropriate locations for the industry along the Queensland Coast, as required by the State Planning Policy.

“As custodians of the Great Barrier Reef, the Government needs to take steps to ensure that growing aquaculture is done in a way that will protect the environment and the Reef at the same time,” Dick said.

“Through better planning upfront for aquaculture and looking at innovative technologies and approaches, we can minimise the environmental impacts while growing this important industry.”

Queensland’s Bribie Island could turn into aquaculture hub

The Queensland government plans to turn rundown buildings on Bribie Island into an aquaculture hub.

The land is part of the Bribie Island Research Centre, an aquaculture research and development facility owned and operated by the department of agriculture and fisheries.

Minister for agricultural industry development and fisheries, Mark Furner, said in the past 12 months, the government had received a number of unsolicited enquiries from both the public and private sectors to use parts of the research centre site for aquaculture.

“We know how popular our seafood products are not only in the burgeoning Asian market, but also in hungry domestic markets down south.

READ: Growing aquaculture production backed by Queensland government

“By supporting new investment in the aquaculture industry, we will see more jobs and more premium seafood being grown right here in Queensland,” said Furner.

The government will run a public process seeking expressions of interest from interested parties to use the land for aquaculture and related purposes, once all relevant approvals have been obtained.

“The site was decommissioned in November 2009 and has since fallen into disrepair.

“The rejuvenation of this site will provide a rare opportunity to invest in Queensland’s growing aquaculture industry which currently is worth an estimated $125 million to the Queensland economy,” said Furner.

Work would shortly start with the Moreton Bay Regional Council to progress the necessary approvals that will be required to advance the project,” he said.

“There is significant community interest in the future use of the land and the expression of interest process will allow us to identify the outcome that maximises the benefit to the aquaculture industry and the local and Queensland economies.

“It is anticipated that an aquaculture development option will provide significant economic development and job opportunities during both the construction phase and once the enterprise becomes operational,” said Furner.

When finalised, details of the expression of interest process will be available on the department of agriculture and fisheries website.

Growing aquaculture production backed by Queensland government

Agricultural industry development and fisheries minister Mark Furner has laid bare his ambitions to make Queensland the aquaculture capital of the world.

Furner used a visit in early October to the JCU aquaculture research lab in Townsville, to begin his campaign to entice further aquaculture investment in North Queensland.

“Queensland stands at the foot of a mountain of potential growth in the aquaculture industry,” he said.

“We have never been better placed to capitalise on the decades of world-class research by the department of fisheries and institutions like JCU.

READ: SafeFish gets $855,000 to help Australia’s seafood sector grow

“With markets in Asia hungry for high quality Australian seafood products, now is the time to strike,” said Furner.

In 2013, for the first time, global aquaculture production exceeded that of beef and this trend in global growth is continuing, according to the Queensland government.

Furner said since he became agriculture minister in December 2017, the untapped potential for seafood enterprises to energise regional communities had stood out.

“I have travelled extensively around the state, covering more than 40,000km, and met with farmers of all types.

“What really stuck with me was the ability for a range of investors, from family operations to multinational companies, to get involved in the aquaculture space,” he said.

“I met a farmer south of Mackay who took out two fields of cane and replaced it with a dam full of barramundi and was sending tonnes of fish to the Sydney Markets every month,” said Furner.

“In the coming months I will be engaging with private companies and encouraging them to invest in Queensland aquaculture projects.

“If opportunities like this harnessed and built upon, there will be a direct injection of jobs into local communities,” said Furner.

Townsville MP Scott Stewart said North Queensland was primed to take advantage of the aquaculture boom.

“The North Queensland seafood production industry can lead the way on this initiative,” said Stewart.

“Already we have seen successful investment in the region, but given the capacity the industry has for growth, I want to see more.

“This has the power to bring more jobs to Townsville and provide a real injection to our economy,” said Stewart.

The forecast gross value of production of Queensland aquaculture for 2017-18 was $125 million, an increase of 4.4 per cent from 2016-17 production.

More than 500 people are directly employed by the industry in Queensland.

But Furner said the future of aquaculture was not just in seafood farming.

“There are a multitude of applications for products to be borne out of aquaculture and related development.

“The gains from this innovation will drive better outcomes for environmental sustainability, regional development and the Great Barrier Reef,” said Furner.


New aquaculture feed factory planned for Australia

Acquaculture company BioMar has entered talks with Australian state government officials to gain approval to build a new feed factory.

While the Danish-based company has not yet disclosed the location of the planned build, if approved, it would be completed by 2019.

BioMar expects the greenfield factory to have a yearly capacity of 110,000 metric tonnes. According to the company, it has been delivering an increasing volume of feed to the Australian market from its factories in Chile and Scotland.

With the new factory, BioMar aims to be “locally agile”, utilising its global product development and technical experience with species such as salmon, trout and yellow tail king fish. The company believes that being locally present with commercial staff, technical expertise and production facilities will lead to a competitive advantage in the market.

It intends to develop products tailored to local farming conditions, with a strong profile in regard to sustainability, feed safety and food quality.

“The world around us is changing, and there is an increasing need for combining sustainability and efficiency,” said BioMar CEO Carlos Diaz.

“We clearly see that end-consumers are changing buying patterns towards high quality products with a responsible profile. We firmly believe that working closely together with the value chain can prepare the industry to take a lead in the global food sustainability agenda.”

The announcement of BioMar’s Australian factory comes not long after the company opened a factory in Turkey earlier this year, with the company also intending to open a factory in China later in the year.

Image: BioMar

Summer food competition set to sizzle

Spring has sprung and summer is here, bringing with it the summer cycle of one of Australia’s most prestigious food competitions, the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show.

It is time for the ‘best of the best’ in aquaculture, bakery and coffee to enter Sydney Royal’s Summer Competitions, run by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (RAS) over two weeks across January and February in 2017.

The Sydney Royal Fine Food Show honours the traditions of local agricultural shows and produce markets around Australia with a focus on Australian-grown and made, recognising commercial producers who capture the essence of the land. Their reward? The distinctive seal of quality that is a Sydney Royal medal, awarded by Australia’s premier team of skilled food industry judges.

This national Competition will look to attract record entries in 2017, starting with these summer competitions early in the year and continuing with the spring cycle in September.

RAS Fine Food Committee Chair Sally Evans said she will expect to see the popularity of the coffee competition continue, however predicts further growth in both aquaculture and bakery.

“Australian consumers continue to revel in the fantastic quality of coffee on offer in Australia, so we’ll expect to see record entries and incredible roasts next year. The aquaculture industry has seen several exciting new products launched over recent years, which will lead to a rise in entries across the fresh fish classes in particular, focusing on Australia’s top-quality Murray Cod and Barramundi. The continued emergency of highly-skilled and innovative artisan bakeries across the country is also expected to result in even stronger participation in our already popular Professional Bakery competition,” she said.

“I encourage all Australian producers, from smaller farm-gate and boutique growers and makers through to larger commercial enterprises, to enter their products in Australia’s premier food show and take advantage of the opportunity to benchmark their products against the best the country has to offer,” said Ms Evans.

Coffee & Professional Bakery entries close on Wednesday 9 November 2016, while Aquaculture will close on Wednesday 7 December 2016.

Living dangerously: climate change means extra risks for baby fish dangerously: climate change means extra risks for baby fish

Published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, new research from the University of Adelaide suggests that climate change will reduce the number of baby fish that make it to adulthood.

The study indicates that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide could have an impact through altering the behaviour of juvenile fish, leading to poorer chances of survival.

“After hatching in the open ocean, baby fish travel to reefs or mangroves as safe places to feed and grow into adults,” explained Tullio Rossi, lead author on the study and PhD candidate at The Environment Institute, University of Adelaide.

“But when ocean acidity increases due to higher dissolved carbon dioxide, a number of factors reduce the chance of fish actually finding those safe havens.”

Tullio’s study focused on barramundi, a tropical fish whose range extends from the eastern Indian Ocean to the western Central Pacific. The species is highly valued across fisheries production, tourism and aquaculture industries.

In Australia, commercial barramundi fisheries produce around 5000 tonnes per annum, with an estimated production value of around AU$45 million.

“Wild barramundi migrate from fresh water to the ocean to spawn, with eggs and freshly hatched fish typically found around river mouths and marine bays,” said Tullio.

“At around two weeks of age, juvenile barramundi settle into mangroves and wetland habitats.”

But how do they know where to go? By listening.

Snapping shrimp and other creatures living in mangroves produce an underwater ruckus the fish are able to hear and follow.

Tullio’s research showed that when barramundi hatch and grow under conditions of elevated carbon dioxide, their response to mangrove sound is changed from attraction to avoidance. The study conditions were designed to reflect carbon dioxide levels expected by the end of this century at the current rate of carbon emissions.

“Our results show that ocean acidification can disrupt the window of opportunity for sound-driven orientation by baby barramundi towards settlement habitats,” said Tullio.

“This could lead to decreased chances of finding suitable adult habitat, leaving fish exposed to predation and starvation for longer periods of time.”

The study also found that even if they do find suitable shelter, baby barramundi exposed to elevated carbon dioxide are then inclined to remain hidden more than normal. From an ecological perspective, this might result in decreased success in finding food.

The scientists believe that increased ocean acidity changes how fish process sensory information via neurotransmitters, creating striking and dangerous alterations in their behaviour.

“If we continue to burn fossil fuels at current levels we could put baby fish in serious trouble, ultimately leaving them lost in an acidified ocean,” says Tullio.

“And this would inevitably lead to fewer adult fish and, potentially, reduced stocks for the fisheries we depend on for food.”

But it’s not too late.

“The good news is that we are still in time to limit our carbon emissions to levels that are not too dangerous for marine animals,” said Tullio.

Signed by 196 nations, The Paris Agreement was reached on December 12 2015, and commits nations to a timetable of emissions reductions aimed at keeping temperatures ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.’

Tullio Rossi performed this study in collaboration with Professor Sean Connell (University of Adelaide), Dr Stephen Simpson (University of Exeter) and Professor Philip Munday (James Cook University).

Despite soaring seafood consumption, fishing and aquaculture only see small growth

While Australia’s love of seafood is tipped to continue with business information analysts at IBISWorld forecasting overall fish and seafood consumption to rise by only 5 per cent – from 18.7 kilograms per capita in 2015 to 19.6 kilograms per capita by 2021.

Subdued growth is anticipated for the nation’s Fishing and Aquaculture industries, forecast to grow by an annualised 0.9 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively from 2015-2021. 

The ongoing rise in disposable incomes and health consciousness, coupled with rising awareness about the health benefits of certain types of fish and seafood, particularly salmon, is continuing to drive overall fish and seafood consumption – however industry challenges are expected to dampen revenue growth.

Ongoing depletion of fish stocks, increasing competition from imports and seafood farming, rising operating costs, and stricter regulation of catch quotas have hurt industry revenue. In 2015-16, IBISWorld forecasts industry revenue of $1.46 billion, forecast to grow by an annualised 0.9% over the coming five years to $1.5 billion in 2020-21.
Rock lobsters are the largest contributor to industry revenue accounting for 32.6%, followed by fish (32.4%), crustaceans including prawns, crabs and crayfish (20%), and molluscs including abalone, octopus, scallops and squid (14.9%).

Fish caught by industry operators account for the largest share of production – at more than 70% by tonnage – however increasing competition from Australia’s Aquaculture industry, particularly in the provision of popular fish products, such as salmon and trout, resulting in the fish segment decreasing as a share of revenue.

Sardines are the largest contributor to fish production volumes for the industry, followed by tuna, shark and flathead.

Aquaculture is one of Australia’s most lucrative primary industries, largely due to its emergence as the most viable solution to maintaining seafood production in the face of ongoing declines in national and global fishing stocks, however rising industry operation costs – including fuel and wage costs – are anticipated to impact industry profit margins, reducing revenue growth. Industry revenue is forecast to at an annualised 2.7% over the coming five years, from $1.2 billion in 2015-16 to $1.3 billion by 2020-21.
Australia’s Aquaculture industry accounts for just under 35% of all fishery production in Australia and approximately 45% of total fishery value, with production increasing by an annualised 4.1% over the five years to 2015-16. This growth emphasises the role that aquaculture has played in creating a more sustainable fishing sector in Australia by supplementing the declining volumes of seafood caught in the wild. The industry also benefits from maintaining a more consistent supply of popular species, such as salmon, due to the controlled farming environments.

Salmon and trout account for 48.9% of industry revenue, followed by tuna (14.8%), edible oysters (10.5%), pearl oysters (9.7%), crustaceans (6.8%), other fish (6.3%) and other molluscs (3%).


NSW Government gold plates fish awards once again

The NSW Government has returned as the Gold Sponsor for the 2015 Sydney Fish Market Seafood Excellence Awards.

The Seafood Excellence Awards recognises the ongoing efforts of seafood businesses in providing the public with exceptional, sustainable and fresh seafood.

This is the third time the NSW Government has endorsed the event, following Gold sponsorship at the 2011 and 2013 Seafood Excellence Awards.

NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair, said: “The NSW Government is proud to support the Sydney Fish Market Seafood Excellence Awards as a Gold Sponsor, and to continue its long association with the Sydney Fish Market and these awards, going back to 1996.

“The Sydney Fish Market Seafood Excellence Awards is a chance to recognise those in the industry that are the “best of the best”, leaders of industry in their field whether it be production, post harvest or those striving to achieve better environmental outcomes for the seafood industry.

“The seafood industry is an integral part of our coastal and inland communities and our consumption of seafood is steadily growing. Consumers can be confident that our seafood is harvested sustainably and is of the highest quality thanks to stringent management and food safety plans," Minister Blair said.

Sydney Fish Market General Manager, Bryan Skepper, said: “The Gold Sponsorship support of the NSW Government through the Department of Primary Industries is greatly appreciated by Sydney Fish Market. There is no doubt that we share the same vision for a sustainable fishing industry and are equally committed to working together to achieve this.

“Industry sponsorship is integral to the success of the Seafood Excellence Awards. The generous support of the NSW Government elevates the awards on to a public stage for all to appreciate the hard working people of the seafood industry,” Mr Skepper said.

The awards will be held at the Sydney Seafood School located at Sydney Fish Market. This event will bring together and reward the industry’s top players including commercial fishers and aquaculturists, retailers, experts, wholesalers and restauranteurs as well as key government and environmental agencies, media and gastronomers.


Growing seafood appetite an opportunity for Australia: report

Australia is in a prime position to take advantage of the growing global demand for seafood, a new industry report has found.

Seafood is the most consumed animal protein in the world, and with an estimated 30 to 40 million tonnes of additional seafood required globally to meet consumer demand by 2030, Australia is in a ‘box seat’ to take capitalise on this opportunity, it says.

Titled Smooth Sailing for Australian Seafood, the report, by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank, says that while Australian seafood accounts for only a small proportion of world seafood production and trade, it plays an important role globally, given the range of premium aquaculture and wild caught products produced here.

Australian animal proteins analyst Matt Costello said Australia’s reputation for producing high quality, sustainable seafood puts us in an enviable position.

“With one of the strongest reputations globally for producing high value, world class, sustainable and environmentally friendly seafood products, the Australian seafood industry is very well positioned to supply seafood hungry consumers internationally and domestically,” he said.

Growth in Asia
Asia in particular presents a strong opportunity for Australia’s industry, Costello said.

In 2014, Chinese per capita annual consumption of seafood is forecast to reach 37.7 kilograms per head, a rise of 57 percent since 2000. The global average is expected to reach just under 20 kilograms per head this year.

“Currently, most of the Chinese seafood consumption is still based on low-value domestically-raised product. But more significant is the expected growth in demand from Chinese consumers for higher-end seafood products, many of which will need to be imported.  This is a key opportunity for export-oriented aquaculture and fisheries, such as in Australia, which can supply premium items,” Costello said.

Globally, the major consumers of seafood include Korea, Norway and Japan with per capita per annum consumption in 2014 expected to reach 57.7 kilograms, 57.65 kilograms and 52.6 kilograms respectively.

Aquaculture versus wild-catch
The rise of aquaculture is also playing a significant role in driving global growth in seafood consumption, the report says, thanks to its ability to sustainably and efficiently convert feed to protein while also keeping prices affordable.

“The ability to produce more with less is going to be the challenge to the future of food production and the aquaculture sector is the most efficient converter of feed in comparison to all animal proteins,” he said.

Farmed salmon, for example, requires approximately 1.2 kilograms of feed to produce one kilogram of protein, while an estimated eight kilograms of feed are required to produce one kilogram of beef.

“With wild-catch seafood production growth remaining close to stagnant over the past 15 years, global seafood production is growing through increased aquaculture,” Costello said.

“Between 1990 and 2012, wild-catch seafood production increased just eight percent.  And with rising environmental and sustainability pressures coming from all participants along the supply chain – including consumers, companies and governments – it is likely there will be no growth in wild-catch production in the future.  Assuming that wild-catch remains at current levels, it is estimated that the extra 30 to 40 million tonnes of additional seafood will be required from aquaculture to meet global demand by 2030.”

Globally, aquaculture now accounts for more than 50 percent of seafood produced for human consumption, surpassing wild-catch in 2012, the report says. However here in Australia, seafood production is still dominated by wild-catch, accounting for 87 percent of production in 2012, with aquaculture making up a relatively small, yet increasing, share of production.


Imported prawns labelled as Australian: Prawn Association

The seafood industry is looking for technology which can decipher if imported products are being sold as Australian, a practice which the Australian Prawn Farmers Association describes as “rife.”

According to the ABC, Helen Jenkins from the Australian Prawn Farmers Association said some Australian retailers are mislabelling cheaper, imported prawns as Australian.

“It’s rife. It’s fraudulent,” she said. “Some of the retailers are selling imported prawns as Australian.

“It’s not fair for consumers.”

The industry is searching for technology which can identify fraudulent labelling, and Jenkins said there may be some solutions in testing technology used in other food industries.

The industry is calling for clearer labelling of seafood products, with Chris Calogeras from the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association claiming it would help to reduce confusion amongst consumers.

"Barramundi has an iconic Australian name and so when people buy Barramundi they assume their buying Australian fish, and their not,” he said.

The ABC reports that between 5,000 and 6,000 tonnes of barramundi are produced in Australian each year, valued at $50-60 million. Approximately 1,500 tonnes are wild-caught, and 13,000 tonnes are imported.

Helen Jenkins said prawn farming could be as much as 17 times bigger in Australia if red tape was removed for local producers and clearer labelling was introduced, with overseas investors keen to buy into production systems in Australia.

Each year, Australia produces about 4,000 tonnes of prawns in ponds, 22,000 tonnes are wild caught and 46,000 tonnes are imported.

Just last week a new campaign promoting accurate labelling was announced, with chef Matthew Evans partnering with Greenpeace and the Australian Marine Conservation Society to drive reforms.