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Fish as food

Fish as food

Mark Ferguson

Top: Mark Ferguson with female brown trout at Eildon Trout Farm. Bottom: Close up of female brown trout
Top: Mark Ferguson with female brown trout at Eildon Trout Farm. Bottom: Close up of female brown trout. Photos: Nick Drayson.

'As a long-term industry I see aquaculture as being one that will grow to fill the gap which will exist when wild fishery stock have been depleted just through human population growth, and the need for fresh fish. And it's a valuable source of protein, one which Australia doesn't consume as much of as other countries per head. So aquaculture is an interesting area for me to apply some technical skills and business skills, and it's got some excellent long-term prospects.

'Aquaculture is a capital-intensive business and I guess it's a labour-intensive one too, but if it's done right, it can have some good returns on investment. The trout are fed on artificial food made of about 55 per cent protein, and that consists of vegetable meal protein and fish protein. It has grain for carbohydrates, it has tuna oil for lipids, it's got carotenes for healthy growth, and it's got vitamins and minerals. No hormones, no antibiotics, no nasties in it, so it's an all-round healthy diet using best-practice world technology to produce it.

'85 per cent of the business is commercial, the rest is tourism, but tourism is a great side of the business, and I would expect it to grow and contribute a significant amount more to our overall production in the next couple of years.'

Left: Mark Ferguson feeding the trout at Eildon Trout Farm. Right: Trout feeding in ponds at Eildon Trout Farm
Left: Mark Ferguson feeding the trout at Eildon Trout Farm. Right: Trout feeding in ponds at Eildon Trout Farm. Photos: Nick Drayson.

Audio and transcript

audio_w15 Listen to Mark talking about feeding fish at the Eildon Trout farm (MP3 363kb)
Duration: 1 minute, 32 seconds

Farming trout is, I guess, like a lot of farming businesses - it's a seven-day-a-week job. You've always got livestock to look after, tend to their needs. They've always got to be fed, you've got to make sure their growing environment is happy and/or healthy and you've also got to follow up your sales, marketing; you've got to meet environmental regulations, you have to maintain and repair equipment, you have to invest capital in your business to keep it surviving well into the future.

If, when your growing conditions are perfect - that is, water temperature's around about 15 degrees and your dissolved oxygen is saturated, which here it's about 10 milligrams per litre - you can feed 1 kilogram of food and you can get 1 kilo of flesh produced.

We breed a lot of fish once a year. The first fish that we breed, we call them our leaders, and we'll feed them three times a day which will keep their growth rate quite high - about 10 per cent a week - and the other fish, we can feed them, say, a daily ration which will maintain their body weight and keep them healthy; it doesn't give them that extra food for growth. So we can actually keep trout tiny for a year, and then when we need to get them growing again we just feed them three times a day instead of once.

This farm we average around about 1.6 tonne of fish a week and that would work out to be roughly two fish per kilo, so you're looking at 3200 fish per week - plus there's some tourism fish that head out too, which probably is a couple of hundred a week.