How to farm $100 a kilogram crayfish
The expert guide to a block-sized business
No- one knows more about freshwater crayfish than John Hollows. “Kōura are on a hiding to nothing.”
Not so long ago, when no-one doubted the drinkability of our rivers and streams, when no-one used words like ‘swimmable’ to measure water quality, one of the defining pastimes of a New Zealand childhood was searching for freshwater crayfish. Lifting up rocks and prodding the banks of streams to chase kōura (or crawlies) out of their hiding places was endlessly entertaining, and ultimately rewarding if you wanted a feed. There were lots of kōura back then. They thrived in forest streams, in lakes and farm ponds, even in streams that flowed through city parks.
But not any more. Kōura are in decline. The blame lies squarely with our failure to care for their habitat.
No-one knows more about this than John Hollows. He is a scientist and conservationist who has studied the impact of changing land use on our native crayfish. His conclusion?
“Kōura are on a hiding to nothing.”
The solution: farm them
John believes the global demand for freshwater crayfish can support a profitable niche industry and this will save the species. For the past few years he’s been developing a unique way of farming kōura in the forests of Southland and Otago. Everything he knows is in a recently-released, how-to guide that he hopes will encourage more people to do so. Freshwater Crayfish Farming: A Guide to Getting
Started draws on his experience as aquaculture manager for the Keewai project. This is a business initiated by forestry company Ernslaw One to gain additional revenue from the hundreds of fire ponds in its forests. Normally, they are only used in the event of a fire.
But now, the ponds are steadily being stocked with kōura (brand named Keewai) for the high-end restaurant market. The business is commercially savvy, using existing infrastructure, but also awardwinning. It won the Spirit of New Zealand Award in