Mainstream Aquaculture | Celebrating Australian Food and Agribusiness Innovations 2021
Garnering industry-wide buy-in to a chemical testing regime that identifies the provenance of Australian-farmed barramundi benefits the entire supply chain, building valuable brand equity and fostering growth.
Australian barramundi is a prized eating fish in both local and overseas markets, earning a solid reputation for its flavour, culinary characteristics and abundance of heart-healthy Omega-3s. In an industry plagued by substitution and fraud, cheaper imported products are often sold to unwitting customers and end consumers labelled as Australian grown or caught.
When Mainstream Aquaculture Managing Director Boris Musa saw an opportunity to co- opt the Australian barramundi industry and drive significant change, he approached FIAL and pitched his idea.
Boris believed that development of a chemically engineered test that could prove the origin of Australian-farmed barramundi would intrinsically hold the supply chain to account and allow local producers to maintain a price premium for a quality product.
“It’s not about protectionism. We’re comfortable with half-price product sourced in Thailand in market, but we have to identify it for what it is. It simply isn’t the same as premium locally grown barramundi, which is recognised as being right up there with the best eating fish in the world,” Boris said.
Initial market testing uncovered a barramundi misrepresentation rate of around 25%, which Boris says isn’t necessarily nefarious as some inadvertent substitution occurs — but it did present a compelling argument for more rigorous provenance identification.
Getting the project off the ground required industry-wide buy-in, a process that took time and effort. Perseverance paid off, with the origin of every farmed barramundi available in Australia now traceable to a tank, pond, cage and batch level with 100% accuracy. This was made possible through chemical profiling that used samples from every farm to create a unique chemical signature.
The testing regime is now being instituted, as is a suitable audit framework for both on-farm and in-market application, which will be accompanied by a customer education program.
The innovation is delivering broad industry benefit, allowing producers to get closer to the customer and building industry brand equity.
“This absolutely needed buy-in from the entire industry, which was a tough ask, because of an embedded competitive disposition and a degree of cynicism. Having FIAL behind the project gave us instant creditability, because it demonstrated backing by an independent third party that exists solely to support and foster food innovation in Australia,” Boris said.
“When pitching the idea, we put to FIAL that the Australian barramundi industry would grow at the expense of imports and that’s absolutely proven to be the case. We have achieved 14% per annum growth during the project implementation period and are confident of enjoying greater success post-pandemic and project completion,” Boris said.