Humpty Doo Barramundi produces up to 10 tonnes of succulent fish each week, using pristine saltwater from the Adelaide River.

Story By David Hancock

The Adelaide River is like a mythical Rainbow Serpent snaking its way to the Arafura Sea, moving slowly during the northern dry season but fuller and faster during the Wet. Along with other mighty Top End rivers – the South Alligator, Victoria and Daly – the Adelaide provides a pristine environment for northern Australia’s most famous fish, the barramundi.
It is by the banks of the Adelaide, 50 kilometres east of Darwin, that the Richards family has established one of the Top End’s most successful aquaculture businesses, Humpty Doo Barramundi. By using saltwater from the Adelaide River, Humpty Doo Barramundi produces up to 10 tonnes of succulent, high-quality fish each week. About 10 percent of the catch goes to Darwin, while the rest is sent to markets and restaurants in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.
The enterprise was established in this location 18 years ago to take advantage of some of the best barramundi breeding and growing conditions in Australia. According to Bob Richards and his son, Dan, the estuary is one of their biggest selling points. “We are in a huge pristine catchment,” Dan says. “There are no gas plants and cities nearby, nothing is discharged into the Adelaide River and we have saltwater available to us all year round. This is the home of barramundi and, of course, they thrive.”
The business, which is located on 293 hectares of the Adelaide River flood plain, makes use of 16 ponds to produce fish ranging from 400 grams (plate-sized) to five kilograms (large fillets for restaurants). Different-sized fish in between are sold to supermarkets and chefs for Asian-style banquets.
The demand for barramundi in Australia is about 5000 tonnes annually. While many Australians express a preference for wild-caught local fish, the reality is that most barramundi is imported from Asia as frozen fillets. Also, the amount of Australian wild-caught barramundi is in decline because northern rivers are being closed to commercial fishing to accommodate recreational fishers and keep stocks high. Also, many wild-caught barramundi are frozen aboard boats that stay at sea for weeks.

This story excerpt is from Issue #79

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2011