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Media release

19 October 2012

A better feed for abalone 

A breakthrough in the nutrition requirements of abalone is expected to have major implications for the small but lucrative Australian export industry, a marine science symposium in Adelaide will be told today.

Marine Innovation Southern Australia nutrition and feed scientist David Stone along with abalone growers and feed manufacturers   are now taking promising preliminary laboratory work to large scale commercial trials at four abalone farms in SA and Victoria over the next 18 months.

If successful, the feed improvements could immediately result in large productivity gains adding up to 10% to the industry’s overall value. This will be welcome news to an industry that is struggling to supply a rapidly rising demand for a delicacy in the strong  markets of China and Japan.

 Dr Stone says nutrition has been a major bottleneck in the development of cultured abalone.

“Many within the industry have long suspected that farmed abalone were not reaching their potential growth rates with one formulation of feed being provided throughout the 2.5 year production cycle, regardless of abalone life stages or seasonal variations. We know that in the wild, abalone have at least two distinct feeding strategies as they develop, with young cryptic abalone grazing on epiphytic organisms and older animals feeding on macroalgae,” says Dr Stone.

 “Our tank trials have clarified optimum protein requirements for greenlip and hybrid abalone which relate to the size of the animal and seasonal changes in water temperatures.

“Now the really exciting work begins with full blown commercial trials starting in June and supported by the entire abalone industry.”

The Australian Seafood CRC and partner Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) have provided a $300,000 grant through the Australian Abalone Growers Association for the project.. Abalone farmers and all three Australian commercial abalone feed producing companies are providing a further $1m in kind, with four major abalone farms in South Australia and Victoria providing facilities and animals, and feed companies supplying feed at cost price for the trials.

The trials are being undertaken in SA at Kangaroo Island Abalone, and in Victoria at Coastal Sea Farms, Portland, Southern Ocean Mariculture, Port Fairy and Great Southern Waters, Port Philip Bay. The feed companies are EP Aquafeeds, Adam and Amos Abalone Foods and Skretting Australia. SAM Abalone at Port Lincoln in SA supplied the animals for the initial tank trials undertaken by SARDI at the South Australian Aquatic Sciences Centre, West Beach, South Australia.

Each farm is committing eight raceways to the trials that are expected to produce a total of around 2.4 tonne of abalone per farm.

“The clincher is that we have the feed companies participating directly with the farmers, so any improvements to feed will become available to all abalone farmers in SA, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia virtually immediately,” says Dr Stone.

Dr Stone says the formulated feed is sustainably produced using plant proteins including wheat products, soy bean products, lupins, minerals and a small amount of fish meal and fish oil. 

“Currently these pellets use between 25% and 30% protein across the board. Based on our research we have suggested varying protein levels.”

Dr Tom Coote, EP Aquafeeds says Dr Stone’s preliminary research has confirmed that young, fast growing abalone utilise dietary protein more efficiently than larger abalone.

“This new information will allow us to diversify our production to at least two diets that differ in their protein levels. This, in turn, will allow abalone farmers to feed abalone of different sizes different feeds, depending on water temperatures.

“Better FCR’s will result in lower feed input costs. Better protein efficiency will result in lower effluent levels. At a time of rising costs and exports being hampered by a strong Australian dollar, this is welcome news for abalone growers.”
Dr James Harris from Flinders University and Dr Louise Ward from the University of Tasmania are assisting Dr Stone.

Further information:

Dr David Stone  (08) 8207 5350 / 0428 542 440:

MISA Communications Heather Riddell  0417 851936 heather.riddell@sa.gov.au

MISA report.

Click on the image for high resolution photograph.

Dr David Stone (SARDI) and Dr Tom Coote (EP Aquafeeds) with abalone feeds prepared at SARDI
Above: MISA nutrition and feed technologist, Dr David Stone and EP Aquafeeds director, Dr Tom Coote with pellets developed by SARDI for abalone feed trials.