Utilising their paddocks to grow Murray cod, a group of Riverina farmers are at the forefront of one of New South Wales’  fastest growing aquaculture industries. 

Story + Photos Nathan Dyer 

Standing on the edge of a dam surrounded by a sea of white cotton plants, Roger Commins slips a small net into the brown water and brings up a catch of green and gold Murray cod weighing about 700 grams each. “These have been in there for about seven months now,” says Roger, smiling at the mass of writhing fish before returning the net to the water.

As a director of Murray Cod Australia, Roger is at the forefront of one of New South Wales’ fastest growing aquaculture industries. “This has been tried over the years, but for various reasons it’s failed or hasn’t grown at the rate that it should have, but we think the time is now right,” says Roger, who also farms cotton on the family’s Whitton property, about 40 kilometres south-east of Griffith. That belief is being driven by surging domestic and international demand for the iconic Australian freshwater fish, as well as a new production system pioneered in the Riverina.

By using small, purpose-built dams to farm fish, rather than large pre-existing irrigation storages traditionally used in on-farm aquaculture operations, Roger says water quality can be controlled and disease outbreaks contained and treated much more quickly. Unlike traditional dam-based production systems that use paddle wheels for aeration, the company has pioneered a system of targeted aeration into each cage. “That makes for a very happy environment for the fish, and they’re growing significantly faster than the traditional systems,” Roger says. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #112

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2017