The prawn industry is about to completely revolutionise the feed they use and a Gold Coast prawn farm is leading the way.
The prawn industry currently demands high volumes of wild fish stocks, a demand the Food and Agricultural Organisation expects to increase exponentially over the next 15 years if the diets of farmed fish remain the same.
To combat this, Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture is trialling Novaq, a product that will replace current wild fish stock ingredients like fishmeal and fish oil in prawn feed with more sustainable plant-based materials.
This move to make prawns completely vegetarian is crucial in order to end the widespread contradiction of feeding farmed fish unsustainable wild fish products.
Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture General Manager Nick Moore believes this new additive could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the aquaculture industry.
“If it can in any way reduce the dependence on fish stocks it would be the single biggest breakthrough in my thirty years in the game so far,” Mr Moore said.
“It’s not a matter of just being sustainable; it’s a matter of being able to feed your animals into the future.”
Novaq has taken 10 years to develop and has linked Australian prawn farmers with CSIRO scientists in an effort to eliminate the dependency of prawn farms on wild fish, something Research Program Director Dr Nigel Preston believes is of utmost importance.
“Of the 90 million tonnes of wild fish caught every year, 30 million tonnes of that is taken, ground, dried and fed to farmed fish and prawns,” Dr Preston said.
“We were determined to look for alternatives to wild harvest fish ingredients in the diets of farmed prawns so that we could look at the sustainability of the industry.”
Novaq has the capacity to convert high volume low value waste carbon from the world’s plant agricultural industry (wheat, rice, sugar) into an additive that replaces the nutrients of fishmeal and fish oil in a prawn’s diet.
“We are able to use a marine microbial process to bio-convert that (high volume low value waste carbon) material into a product that when we harvest it and put it into prawn feed, makes the prawns grow 20% to 40% faster depending on the diet formulation,” Dr Preston said.
“It’s Australian local knowledge and technology for the global market.”
Australian Marine Conservation Society Campaign Manager Tooni Mahto is positive about the developments towards more sustainable prawn feed, but is concerned about the expected expansion of the Queensland aquaculture industry and what prawn farm expansion might mean for waterways in the future.
“It’s a question of whether the cumulative impacts of prawn farming in the future might have implications for waterways, but that is something to keep an eye on in the future, it’s not an issue at the moment,” Ms Mahto said.
Dr Preston is less sceptical about potential expansions, citing recent advances in the environmental management and impact of prawn farms.
“Pond-based aquaculture is the only sector that treats its discharge water, which contains zero pesticides, herbicides or any other agricultural chemical, to very strict standards prior to discharge,” Dr Preston said.
“The Australian industry prawn farming industry has operated for 20 years with no adverse impacts on adjacent ecosystems, including the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon.”