For­mer cat­tle­man finds his niche by div­ing into cray­fish

Farmer fol­lows in­ter­est in aqua­cul­ture to red­claws

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Front Page -

GEORDI OFFORD

Geordi.offord@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

DE­SPITE grow­ing up around cat­tle, a pas­sion for fish­ing had David Agnew hooked on a ca­reer in aqua­cul­ture.

Nine years ago he started Coon­doo Claw, a red­claw farm in Wolvi, northeast of Gympie.

“We pre­vi­ously looked at fish and bar­ra­mundi but it wasn’t the right time and not as user-friendly,” he said.

Mr Agnew said red­claw pro­duc­tion had fewer risks than fish.

“When you farm fish you have to al­ways make sure the wa­ter is the cor­rect tem­per­a­ture,” he said.

“With red­claw you have a bit more lee­way with those things.”

Cur­rently, Mr Agnew works in the fam­ily busi­ness, which makes fire­fighter uni­forms.

But in the com­ing months he’ll blow out the flame and dive into his busi­ness full time.

“It started as a hobby farm, but now it’s start­ing to look like the uni­form pro­duc­tion will go over­seas,” Mr Agnew said.

“Work­ing with them full time will al­low me to keep a closer eye on pests like wa­ter rats and other ver­min that get into the ponds.

“Be­cause I’m not home through­out the day a lot of the time I won’t know there’s a prob­lem un­til I har­vest.”

Above each pond there are nets that are fit­ted with a laser bird de­ter­rent sys­tem to keep hun­gry beaks away from the claw.

“Pest con­trol is pretty im­por­tant,” Mr Agnew said.

“If birds get into them they can eat up to 1kg of them.

“When wa­ter rats get in they can have a feed and then just kill them for the sake of it, like foxes do.”

Mr Agnew said he buys the lit­tle nip­pers when they are quite small and al­lows na­ture to take its course be­fore har­vest­ing.

The 12ha block is cur­rently set up with 20 ponds, with an­other 16 half-built.

“The ponds are all

50 x 20m,” he said.

“Af­ter ev­ery har­vest we have to let the wa­ter out so we have a plug at the bot­tom.

“Out of a har­vest we can get any­where be­tween 70 to 200kg per pond.”

He said the wa­ter goes into a set­tle­ment pond to keep it from run­ning off into other wa­ter­ways.

“From there the wa­ter is re­cy­cled,” he said.

Mr Agnew uses a flow trap method to har­vest.

“We put a bin at the top of the pond ramp and it has a chute of run­ning fresh­wa­ter and the red­claw walk up into the bin,” he said.

❝Work­ing

with them full-time will al­low me to keep a closer eye on pests like wa­ter rats.

— David Agnew

“It’s their nat­u­ral in­stinct to fol­low fresh­wa­ter so it’s a more nat­u­ral process.

“They can walk them­selves up there from when they’re un­der 1cm long.”

He said farm­ing red­claw full time would al­low him to ex­pand on his busi­ness.

“In the near fu­ture we’ll send them di­rectly to the Syd­ney Fish Mar­ket un­der our own brand,” Mr Agnew said.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

EX­PAND­ING: 20 red­claw ponds are about to be­come 36 with an­other 16 ponds al­ready half-built.

PHOTOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

DIV­ING IN: Red­claw farmer David Agnew will be­gin farm­ing red­claw full time in the com­ing months.

Af­ter har­vest, wa­ter is let into a set­tling pond where it is then re­cy­cled.

Coon­doo Claw is lo­cated in Wolvi near Gympie and is owned by David and Michelle Agnew.

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