Collaboration to maximise new aquaculutre opportunities

Yellowtail Kingfish and tropical white-fleshed fish species are frontrunners in research priorities to develop new aquaculture opportunities for Australia

By Joshua Fielding

Several research projects already underway will link into a new FRDC subprogram to maximise new and emerging aquaculture opportunities. These include a $6 million project on nutrition, health and feeding strategies for Yellowtail Kingfish (Seriola lalandi), funded through the Rural Research and Development for Profit grants program, which was announced last year. This major project also links to other Yellowtail Kingfish research in New South Wales and Western Australia.  

The New and Emerging Aquaculture Opportunities (NEAO) subprogram has been established as part of the FRDC’s Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) Plan 2015–2020. One of its aims is to establish a project for Northern Australian fish species similar to the one underway for Yellowtail Kingfish. This could include Barramundi (Lates calcarifer), Cobia (Rachycentron canadum) or tropical Groupers (Epinephelus spp.), building on existing demand for white-fleshed fish. There has been a lot of work done previously on some of the species and further research is already underway in Queensland investigating the development of Cobia aquaculture.

Any new FRDC-funded research is expected to focus on functional aspects of animal husbandry, such as nutrition, feeding strategies and fish health. The subprogram committee will also consider how shellfish and Indigenous interests can be included in the northern development initiative. An interim ‘establishment committee’ is helping to set up the subprogram in line with the new RD&E Plan.

It includes national representatives from the aquaculture industry, researchers and the FRDC’s Indigenous Reference Group.  The establishment committee is chaired by the FRDC and includes representatives from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the Australian Fisheries Managers Forum aquaculture subcommittee.

These groups all have a stake in new and emerging aquaculture. Collaboration will help prevent duplication and ensure the best value from the research.

The establishment committee held its first meeting in February 2016, following a broader planning meeting in November 2015.

The draft RD&E program for NEAO takes a three-pronged approach.

1 Facilitation:

  • auditing past research on new and emerging species;
  • planning and targeting other funding opportunities for new and emerging aquaculture work, such as the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia and the Rural Research and Development for Profit grants program;
  • conducting science and technology workshops; and
  • providing travel bursaries for research and further investigation.

2 Functional performance:

  • conducting specific research on functional aspects such as animal health, nutrition and feeding strategies; and
  • developing new business tools and models.

3 Species-specific research:

  • supporting opportunities identified in the audit.

The audit of existing research is expected to be the first new task undertaken to direct the future research priorities and focus of the NEAO subprogram. It will review previously conducted RD&E on aquaculture for species that have not seen the growth in production that might have been expected. This will help to map the factors that contribute to the success or failure of new species in aquaculture.

The audit will have two phases. The first is a data summary of past projects including information on what was done and why, and the development of a risk matrix, including information such as markets, regulatory systems, access to farming areas and political support. The second phase will consist of several case studies to conduct detailed audits based on the data summary conducted in phase one.

The audit data will make it easier to identify what research has already been done for different aquaculture species in Australia and the decision matrix will help decide what research to fund through the subprogram. For example, the audit might identify that technological solutions have been pivotal in increasing production or efficiency of production for the more successful aquaculture sectors. Based on this, the subprogram may fund a technical workshop to specifically showcase these technologies.

The audit is expected to be completed in mid-2016. In the meantime, the establishment committee is developing a strategic plan for the subprogram.

FRDC RD&E Plan 2015–2020

The FRDC’s vision is for Australia to have vibrant fishing and aquaculture sectors that adopt world-class research to achieve sustainability and prosperity.

PLAN PRIORITY 3: By 2020, deliver research, development and extension (RD&E) sufficient for the significant commercialisation of at least two emerging aquaculture growth opportunities with demonstrated potential for profitable business operations.

STRATEGY: Identify research constraints to industry growth – such as lack of potential markets, cost of production, survival, deformities and uniformity of growth – and invest in RD&E to determine successful and competitive commercial activity.

TARGET: Advance two or more emerging aquaculture opportunities/species for which RD&E has identified clear opportunities and technologies for good production and profitability growth, as measured by increases in harvest tonnage.

Harvest target
500 tonnes
2017 1000 tonnes
2018 1500 tonnes
2019 2000 tonnes
2500 tonnes

FRDC Research Codes: 2016-200, 2014-246

More information

Wayne Hutchinson,