The Townsville-based Australian Crayfish Hatchery (ACH) is a small enterprise with big dreams. And while its goals might sound presumptuous to begin with, they aren’t that far from reality. ACH’s main goal is to revolutionise and rationalise the Australian redclaw crayfish industry. And in doing so, it will offer a range of benefits to the Australian economy, primarily through diversification and optimisation of land resources, employment, high level of technology transfer, and export. Let’s have a closer look at these four areas:
Aquaculture can restore value to areas with low agronomic capacity through the construction of ponds and create wealth in poor areas, either through secondary activities (as a complement to others) or as a main activity. In rural populations, aquaculture is often undertaken as a secondary source of income with many agricultural farmers discovering that the integration of aquaculture into their production systems leads to increased land and yield productivity.
The effluent from the aquaculture ponds (high in nutrients) can be used to support a secondary agricultural crop or as a fertiliser on paddocks to support livestock. In developing countries (for example Vietnam), catfish culture represents a significant economically important aquaculture sector. However, continued culture of the same fish species often results in disease outbreaks and loss of production.
Redclaw crayfish can be substituted for catfish every second season using the same ponds and conditions. This often breaks the disease cycle as fish as redclaw do not suffer from the same diseases as catfish and offers the farmer an alternative crop when the market is low for catfish or vice versa.
Redclaw farming is focused primarily on producing premium value species rather than mass production of protein and involves a large number of underpinning activities such as transport, engineering, marketing, education, retailing, processing and R&D. “Further, for each job directly generated by the aquaculture industry, it is estimated that another 2.2 jobs are created upstream and downstream. For every dollar of sales generated, another $1.8 may be earned by related businesses.” (See here)
Over the past 15 years extensive R&D projects (supported by Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, RIRDC, James Cook University, and QCFA) have been undertaken to develop technologies and methods for the culture of this species and expansion of the industry at farm production level. More recently, AquaVerde developed a prototype system and methods for the hatching and larval rearing of redclaw in showing proof of concept and the basis for a new and novel production pond stocking method. ACH will further develop and nurture interactions and collaborations between AquaVerde, industry and government sectors filling a niche in the global market. The outcomes to-date place Australia at the forefront of redclaw crayfish farming and enable the transfer of technology to international sectors.
Growing populations and affluence are boosting demand for Australia’s quality seafood. With the establishment of a state-of-the-art hatchery and the production of hatchery reared craylings, export markets for craylings and market-sized redclaw crayfish can be fully utilised, strengthening international trade. Redclaw crayfish aquaculture has been recognised as a New and Developing Animal Industry by RIRDC. While in transit, redclaw crayfish is hardy and will last for long periods out of water if kept moist and cool. This is a great advantage as most redclaw crayfish sold in Queensland is marketed live. The establishment of a state-of-the-art redclaw hatchery offers crucial input into the science and technology of the larval rearing of this emerging aquaculture species and provides supporting technologies and products to production farms.
In addition, the reliable supply of hatchery-reared craylings has a direct effect on the ability for this primary production industry to expand on a global scale.