Queensland aquaculture company Pacific Reef Fisheries has beaten a field of more than 5,650 entries from around Australia to win the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW President’s Medal.
Pacific Reef Fisheries was nominated for its sashimi grade Pacific Reef North Queensland cobia.
The Pacific Reef cobia is a little known saltwater finfish, weighing about five to seven kilograms fully grown.
It is a relatively new aquaculture species in Australia, which Pacific Reef Fisheries founders, the Mitris family, started producing in partnership with the Queensland Department of Fisheries.
The enterprise is based at Ayr in north Queensland, and uses a groundbreaking and innovative land-based seawater pond system fed by a constant flow of Coral Sea water.
Man-made mangrove wetlands form part of a world-first water treatment technique used to clean the water leaving the farm.
Pacific Reef’s Maria Mitris said it had been a steep learning curve, but they saw the potential in the cobia and decided to stick with it.
“First of all, the birds really like the cobia, so we had to deal with the predation of our fish stocks.
“Then we set up a pond system to ensure that we could remove all the nutrients from the water,” she said.
“Now the water that is discharged into the ocean is virtually totally clean.
“As a sideline from the nutrients being removed, we can use the excess nutrient to grow algae.
“Finally, we recognised that sustainable fish feed is a real issue in the aquaculture industry around the world, so we managed to source a new and sustainable food source from manufacturers here in Australia.
“The next phase of the business is looking at exports.”
The President’s Medal is open to all agriculturally-based businesses in Australia and carries a prize of $10,000.