Articles by: LEADWEST LTD

Posted on: 13 Apr, 2016

Mainstream Aquaculture catapulted onto the international stage with quality seafood products

Author: LEADWEST LTD

Mainstream Aquaculture distributes its food products into premium retail outlets and restaurants around Australia and exports juvenile barramundi to 21 countries across five continents, to farms that produced fish for almost 100 million people globally last financial year. The company has undergone a decade of very successful R&D, followed by a commercialisation phase, and is now moving into a growth stage.

Mainstream was founded in 2001 with a vision to become the world’s leading provider of land based aquaculture seafood products. Through over a decade of successful R&D, the company has developed proprietary technology that enables continuous, year-round, high quality production of barramundi.  It operates the largest aquaculture system of its type in mainland Australia and is one of the top five domestic providers of barramundi into the consumer market

Facilities are supported by an advanced selective breeding program conducted in a hatchery in Werribee, which is the world’s largest for barramundi. This breeding program underpins production through supply of high quality juvenile barramundi that demonstrate rapid growth, low growth variance, high fillet yield and disease resistance.

CEO of Mainstream Aquaculture Boris Musa said that the company has developed manufacturing technology that can produce premium protein efficiently, sustainably and in close proximity to major population centres

“Nobody else does what we do, we’ve had to develop our own technology and operational systems. We’re at the frontier of new technology and a new farmed species. Our original business plan was not to vertically integrate but to buy fingerlings from a supplier, however we couldn’t find a supplier with the quality and consistency of supply we wanted. Nobody was operating a stock improvement program. We had to do it ourselves.”

Because the industry and supply chain is so underdeveloped, Mainstream had to vertically integrate sooner than they thought. This meant greater R&D lead time, capital investment and resource requirement than had been planned. But it meant long-term benefit, as the barriers to entry are now significantly larger.

“We found collaboration with a university to be very positive. We’ve had an eight-year association with James Cook University in Queensland, who have helped us with our stock improvement program,” said Boris. “We’re maintaining an active dialogue with other educational institutions and government authorities, and we’re now working to commercialise a new strain of barramundi, golden barramundi.”

Mainstream Aquaculture sits at the interface between advanced manufacturing and agribusiness. Its controlled environment operates like an assembly line. The process means the barramundi are not exposed to traditional agricultural risks like adverse weather events, industrial and natural pollutants, pathogens and predators. Through technological advancement, the company has substantially reduced or removed these risks.

Operating systems are adopted from within manufacturing rather than agriculture, and a continuous improvement program involves all staff generating ideas and implementing efficiencies.

“The challenges for us have been operating with a new production technology and new farmed species. This required substantive R&D in stock improvement, aquaculture system engineering and sales and marketing. Effectively, the business was developed through the entire supply chain at once, rather than starting with a particular niche and expanding breadth over time,” added Boris.

“Energy is one of our largest costs. We’re constantly moving oxygen, water and fish. We’ve installed efficient lighting and pumps with variable speed drives, and we make use of gravity rather than pumps where possible. We’ve reduced our energy consumption per kilo of fish produced materially over time and expect to continue to improve this metric through operational efficiencies, R&D related productivity gains and increased scale.

“We export to 21 countries. At the moment we’re working on ways to reduce the administration associated with us getting our product on an aircraft, then to customers overseas. Our double digit growth in sales internationally for four successive years demonstrates success in exporting. Mainstream products have been exceptionally well received.”