How to farm $100 a kilo­gram cray­fish

The ex­pert guide to a block-sized busi­ness

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - Words Anna Tait-jamieson

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

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