Australis sells Turners facility, moves HQ to Greenfield

  • Australis Aquaculture employee Khanh Huynh checks on seaweed cultures in Vietnam. AP photo

Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2018 11:08:46 PM

MONTAGUE — The world has changed in the past 14 years — climate change and sustainability have become central environmental discussions, prompting farmers to find new practices.

That includes fish farmers, like those at Australis Aquaculture LLC, which just sold its land-based barramundi aquaculture operation in Turners Falls to Great Falls Aquaculture LLC, a company that will continue to raise and sell barramundi to specialty fish markets in North America.

And, Australis will continue raising and selling barramundi — a type of sea bass native to Australia and the Indo-Pacific — just not from Turners Falls, where it started operations in 2004.

“Our indoor farm in Turners Falls grew to become one of the world’s largest and longest operating indoor aquaculture facilities — something that we take a lot of pride in. We pioneered many of the methods used in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) globally,” said Australis founder and CEO Josh Goldman in a statement.

“In addition to the innovative systems we developed, we learned a lot about managing the interactions between fish and their human-created environment,” he added.

According to Goldman, being “local and sustainable” was a “powerful” model for a company that looks to be an example of environmentally friendly practices. However, ocean farming has become the more efficient option.

“As we gained experience farming barramundi indoors, we came to believe that our most important goal — producing the best most sustainable fish at an accessible price — would be very difficult to realize through indoor farming. RAS systems are inherently energy intensive, as very large volumes of water need to be rapidly recirculated, purified and oxygenated,” Goldman said.

Australis’ aim is to produce fish in an environmentally friendly way, and on a “globally meaningful scale,” Goldman said. For several years, the Australis barramundi people typically eat has come from fish farms in Vietnam, not Turners Falls, with the exception of barramundi Australis sold live to specialty markets.

“This was a strategic decision that allows Australis to focus on the expansion of our marine aquaculture operations in southeast Asia,” Goldman said.

Australis will continue to operate in Massachusetts, with corporate offices now in Greenfield, and all North American sales and marketing will continue. Great Falls Aquaculture will retain the production team at the Turners Falls facility.

“However, for us, we see our long-term growth in large-scale ocean farming,” Goldman added.

Barramundi eat low on the food chain, don’t produce much waste and are farmed in a way that leaves a small carbon footprint compared to other fish that need to eat more seafood to grow.

Focusing on large-scale ocean farms is a move Australis made in order to get the most amount of sustainably raised food at reasonable prices to people as possible. Since acquiring Marine Farms Vietnam in 2016, Australis has become the largest aquaculture sea lease holder in Vietnam.

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