More global de­mand for Aus­tralian seafood

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Grains Feature -

QUEENS­LAND could soon be known as the aqua­cul­ture cap­i­tal of the world thanks to a boom­ing de­mand for seafood.

The in­dus­try is sur­pass­ing beef to be­come one of the fastest grow­ing sec­tors glob­ally, with some farm­ers di­ver­si­fy­ing into it.

Cane farmer Michael Deguara added bar­ra­mundi to his op­er­a­tion in 2006 af­ter he took out two fields to in­stall a ring tank. Whit­sun­day Coast Bar­ra­mundi now sup­plies be­tween 800 kilo­grams to a tonne of bar­ra­mundi a week to whole­salers and fish mar­kets, and are keen to break into the global mar­ket.

IN­CEP­TION

MR DEGUARA has been farm­ing sug­ar­cane since he was five-years-old.

He runs the fam­ily farm with his wife Hay­ley and his sons Adam, Kane and Zack, who live close by. When he started out on his own he never imag­ined he’d be farm­ing some­thing other than the crop. Mr Deguara added bar­ra­mundi to his op­er­a­tion by tak­ing out six hectares to build a ring tank.

He uses the wa­ter from the tank to both ir­ri­gate his crop and grow his fish.

“It took 22 weeks, two doz­ers and graters to build it; a lot of soil was shifted,” he said.

“We’re in an area where we get salt in­tru­sion in our bores and we were get­ting salty bore wa­ter onto our crops so we thought ‘what do we do now?’.

“We had a site on the farm to build a ring tank and we did, we built it to the max­i­mum and thought we’ll even­tu­ally grow fish in it.

“Then we had to trial the bar­ra­mundi to make sure they could sur­vive and we had to learn what to do with them.”

He said adding bar­ra­mundi to his farm was good for busi­ness.

“The cane and the fish work well to­gether,” he said.

“There’s not a lot to do for the fish in win­ter so we har­vest the cane and get right back into it in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber when it warms up.

“As you go on you get more and more ef­fi­cient with ev­ery­thing.”

PRO­DUC­ING BARRA

THE bar­ra­mundi start out as day-old lar­vae.

“We source them from places like Proser­pine and Glad­stone,” he said.

“We then we feed them and let them grow be­fore we put them out in the ring tank.

“We’re lucky we don’t have many pests, the fish have nets over them and we also have a gas gun to scare off the birds.”

He said the feed is a crum­ble and/or pel­let mix, which was high in pro­tein.

“They do re­ally well on it,” he said.

“The ba­bies start off on a crum­ble and then we se­lect the big­ger-sized feed to ac­com­mo­date with their size.

“They’ve got a good im­mune sys­tem and they’re nice and slimy on the out­side which helps pro­tect them from par­a­sites,” he said. When the fish are har­vested, they are put through a fin­ish­ing process.

“We put them in salt­wa­ter so we can bring out the nice flavour in them,” he said.

He said bar­ra­mundi were the best op­tion for the cli­mate.

“We did con­sider perch but it’s too hot up here for them,” he said.

“They can live in wa­ter that goes down to about 10 or 12 de­grees and they’re fine but if the wa­ter goes be­low 14 de­grees with the barra they start to stress and can take on par­a­sites.

“Be­cause our body of wa­ter is so large, the wa­ter only gets down to about 19 de­grees and the tem­per­a­ture changes slowly, which is good be­cause they don’t like when it does quickly.”

Mr Deguara said the trop­i­cal fish per­form re­ally well in the sum­mer months and like to feed when the sun be­gins to set.

“They per­form re­ally well when the wa­ter is at that 28-de­gree mark,” he said.

“If it’s too bright, they could see you as a po­ten­tial dan­ger so they aren’t as ac­tive.

“When you feed them late in the af­ter­noon they’re al­most jump­ing out of the wa­ter.” The Deguaras are also tri­alling red claw.

“The sky is the limit and it just keeps go­ing on you just need to keep think­ing out­side the square and go­ing out of your com­fort zone.” Mr Deguara said they don’t want to over-pop­u­late the farm.

“As you in­crease pro­duc­tion there’s al­ways the risk of your wa­ter qual­ity,” he said.

GOVT SUP­PORT

MIN­IS­TER for Agri­cul­tural In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment and Fish­eries Mark Furner is throw­ing his sup­port be­hind the in­dus­try and has re­cently vis­ited farms and the aqua­cul­ture re­search lab in Townsville.

In 2013, for the first time, global aqua­cul­ture pro­duc­tion ex­ceeded that of beef and this trend in global growth is con­tin­u­ing. Mr Furner said the un­tapped po­ten­tial for seafood en­ter­prises to en­er­gise re­gional com­mu­ni­ties had stood out.

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.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

DI­VERSE PRO­DUCER: Michael Deguara took out two fields of cane to start farm­ing bar­ra­mundi.

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