Qld hub for northern aquaculture species

Fraser BartonAAP
A $4.9 million aquaculture hub in north Qld will improve the farming of five species.
Camera IconA $4.9 million aquaculture hub in north Qld will improve the farming of five species. Credit: AAP

Genetic testing, selective breeding and artificial intelligence are all part of a $4.9 million hub to improve the productivity of aquaculture in north Queensland.

Funded by the federal government, the program in partnership with James Cook University will use high tech approaches to farming five northern Australian aquaculture species.

Breeding programs for barramundi, pearl oyster, black tiger prawn, grouper and marine red-algae will focus on increased growth and disease resistance through the use of genomics.

Director of the research hub, Professor Dean Jerry, says it's imperative to link companies with experts to maximise efficiency in breeding.

"Like every other food production sector: cattle, crops and poultry, genetics has been the one technology that has allowed us to increase our food efficiency in production and lower the risk of disease," he said.

"Aquaculture as a new industry and rapidly expanding industry in the north, now is in the position to take advantage of the $5 million cutting edge technologies."

Professor Jerry added that aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector globally, outstripping any other food production industry.

He said 50% of global seafood now comes from aquaculture, whereas a decade ago it was around 15 to 20 per cent.

But skilled labour shortages in Queensland's north have hindered progression for the industry, and its hoped the hub will attract trainees and internships with partner organisations.

"The industry is growing so rapidly that farms are having difficulty finding skilled staff," Prof Jerry said.

"By these companies working with us we will have things like internships, embedment of research onto the farms... to try and develop the human capital for the industry moving forward."

Partner organisations will contribute an additional $2.65 million and more than $10 million in support to help achieve the program's goals.

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