JCU to develop a better breeding barra
A James Cook University researcher’s plan to develop a barramundi capable of reaching sexual maturity twice as fast could revolutionise Australia’s fast-growing aquaculture industry.
JCU’s Jarrod Guppy will apply cutting edge genetic techniques to develop a next-generation breed of the popular catch, after receiving a $470,000, three-year Australian Research Council Early Career Research Industry Fellowship.
“We are aiming to speed up the process of selective breeding as much as possible and give the operators of selective breeding programs more control over how they breed,” he said.
“One of the big challenges for barramundi breeding programs is that they can take four to six years to mature for breeding. We are aiming to halve that time period.
“By understanding the biology of barramundi, and tailoring our techniques to its needs, we will produce fish that are mature at two years old to breed the next generation of fast-growing fish.”
The JCU team will take samples of different barramundi at different stages of sexual maturation and compare their genes, proteins and hormones to better understand the barramundi’s reproductive development and its path to maturity.
Mr Guppy is partnering with Mainstream Aquaculture, the world’s largest barramundi breeding company. Mainstream will provide commercial support for the project in addition to stock from the company’s fish farms in Queensland and Victoria.
Research will also be carried out at JCU’s Marine and Aquaculture Research Facility in Townsville and Mainstream’s hatchery facilities.
Mr Guppy said Australia is a net importer of barramundi, with Australian farms in constant competition with low-cost international producers - making his project all the more critical.
“There’s a huge gap there so if we can support companies like Mainstream to produce more barramundi more efficiently, at a lower cost, we can cater to those market demands with a superior product,” he said.
“Australia has a remarkable reputation in producing high quality seafood. The barramundi industry in particular grew about 30 per cent per year between 2015 and 2020, and the total production value in 2020 was estimated at just under $100 million.”
Results from the project may also have applications for other species of seafood in the aquaculture industry.
“The knowledge that we’re gaining here is really the starting point,” Mr Guppy said.
“We can learn about the underlying biological pathways of barramundi, take that information and apply to another species.
“JCU is well renowned for aquaculture and undertaking research that has direct outcomes for industry – and that’s a credit to the team we have working here.”
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