Australians should soon be able to experience a healthy, premium ‘clean and green’ barramundi dining experience – that tastes like the sea – thanks to a Deakin-led project funded by an ARC Linkage Grant.

A prized eating fish, barramundi has had a strong commercial history in Australia with aquaculture production expanding rapidly over the past few decades. But modern aquaculture farmers have faced marketing challenges in recent times, as the domestic market has been flooded with lower quality imports from Asia.

Deakin aquaculture nutritionist Dr David Francis and his team will receive $339,300 from the ARC, and substantial industry support, including from Australia’s largest producer of animal nutrition solutions, Ridley Agriproducts, to enhance the flavour of Australian-farmed barramundi through natural dietary supplementation. They aim to produce a premium product to market in Australia and overseas, and facilitate the economically-sustainable growth of this regional industry.

Building on a completed successful pilot project, the team are confident their work will lead to the commercialisation of flavour-enhanced fish food that will flow through to the flavour experienced by human consumers, as well as the identification of new markets that will see increased product returns for farmers.

The team expects to expand fundamental knowledge of flavour enhancement, drawing on the world-class “taste” expertise of Deakin’s Professor Russell Keast, whilst providing significant practical benefits to final product quality.

By adding a natural compound found in certain types of seaweed, we can achieve a barramundi that is both nutritious and delicious, and provide Australian producers with a premium product,

explained Dr Francis.

“The seaweed component added to the diet imparts a flavour of the sea that consumers in the trial preferred. This will differentiate Australian producers here and, in the longer term, Asia and other parts of the world. In the future, the optimised fish food may also benefit other commercial fish producers for a host of other species such as Murray cod, yellowtail kingfish and Atlantic salmon.

“In Australia, we have very strong guidelines for best practice production of farmed fish. Our goal is to achieve a premium product that will benchmark Australia as a high-end producer of nutritious, delicious, ‘clean and green’ barramundi, as well as other fish species.”

Other Deakin staff involved in the project include: Professor Giovanni Turchini, Dr Damien Callahan, Dr Xavier Conlan and Professor Russell Keast. They will work with researchers from James Cook University, the University of Milan and partner organisations: Ridley Agriproducts PL; Humpty Doo Barramundi PL; Mainstream Aquaculture; Pacific Biotechnologies Ltd; and the Australian Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.