AS THE fish farming boom “grows legs” and continues its surge past beef in terms of volume of protein produced globally, Australia needs to take a serious look at how to cash in on this relatively new agricultural industry.
Already, the single greatest challenge emerging for fish farming is its reliance on wild caught “trash” fish which become its feed source.
Feeding fish to fish not only counteracts some of aquaculture’s environmental credentials but it is also contributing to making our fisheries a declining resource.
Therefore the ability of Aussie farmers to provide land-grown feedstuffs needs to be better explored.
Opportunities also potentially exist for processing and transporting, as well as marketing of the end product, including value-adding to capture a range of potential markets.
In fact these areas might end up being where the real financial gains emerge.
However, more research in what fish species are most suitable, how we can implement genetic selection, the type of feedstuffs needed and how we can produce them, and identifying what supply chain opportunities exist are all necessary if we are to jump aboard before foreign interests get their hooks in.
As we are “girt by sea” it seems, rather ironically in a land better known for drought, that we have some of the world’s best access to the number one ingredient for growing fish – water.
And with feed efficiencies in some species of fish already as productive as one kilogram of feed to a kilogram of protein, the industry will surely play an increasingly important role in feeding future populations and animal genetic research.
To draw a parallel of how efficiency helps grow market share, chicken, with efficiencies of one kilo of feed to 1.9kg of protein has now overtaken beef (with 8:1 efficiency) as a preferred source of protein in Australia, which follows global trends.
And in real terms chicken retails for less than it did a decade ago.
With a finite area suitable for cropping, farmed fish will likely be a strong competitor for products such as grain - so why not investigate how we can cash in from the “grassroots” level right through to the consumer?