Redclaw crayfish aquaculture in Australia has been recognized as a new and developing animal Industry by the Rural Industries Research and Development Committee (RIRDC) and more than eight years of research has been funded by the organization to assist with industry growth.
The major constraint to the growth of the redclaw industry is a reliable supply of adult redclaw at specific market size. This is directly related to the inability to mass-produce seed stock for commercial production farms i.e. pond production is limited by stocking densities of seed stock. This could only be achieved by the development of a hatchery facility and larval rearing technologies.
In 2005, a Finnish designed incubator system intended for the conservation of the European crayfish (Asticus sp.) was imported by Colin Valverde (AquaVerde Redclaw Farm).
It was hypothesized that this crayfish incubation technology, combined with the high fecundity of redclaw crayfish, could be used to develop a highly controlled redclaw hatchery system.
It was quickly realized that the European incubator system was unsuitable for the tropical redclaw crayfish. Extensive modifications spanning several years were undertaken by AquaVerde to make it suitable for hatching and rearing of redclaw craylings. This prototype has been used extensively in projects funded by RIRDC such as the Redclaw Selective Breeding Project 2013, producing approximately 1,400,000 S3J craylings for farm stocking trials, hence the term S3J farming. The results from these projects were highly successful and industry recommends that S3J farming using hatchery-reared craylings be adopted as it represents the way of the future for stocking of redclaw grow-out ponds. This system has been successful is showing POC, though it hasn’t proven reliable enough to produce at commercial scale.
In 2013, Dr. Lisa Elliott was contracted to undertake a project to investigate factors limiting the production capability of the AquaVerde system (funded by RIRDC). The overall conclusion of this two-year project was that significant modifications to the POC system and facility design were required and a state-of-the-art (SOTA) hatchery facility was vital to provide craylings at commercial scale.
With the full support of AquaVerde and the Crayfish Farmers Association, Australian Crayfish Hatchery (ACH) was established in early 2016 and a SOTA hatchery facility has been established to bring POC to commercialization. ACH will continue to work in close collaboration with AquaVerde, farmers and industry to support industry growth.
ACH has established the first commercial state-of-the-art redclaw hatchery by combining:
- A biosecure modulated facility comprising climate controlled incubation rooms; with
- Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) – low water usage and waste; and
- A specialized laboratory onsite to facilitate high level monitoring of water quality and health status;
- Using innovative hatching, larval rearing and disease management methods including novel disease prevention and treatment technology.
The combination of this SOTA facility and innovative technologies provides a sustainable, low environmental footprint, seafood production facility that will produce, for the first time at commercial scale, superior genetic quality, specific pathogen free craylings at known age and numbers to production farmers globally.
The impasse is the lack of commercial hatchery-produced seed stock for stocking of production ponds.
The global redclaw industry has reached a pivotal point in its development. The methods for growing and harvesting redclaw are well established. However, current methods for stocking ponds industry fail to offer a consistent supply of market size animals and fails to reach full industry potential. The rate-limiting component for redclaw farming to provide significant commercial and market outcomes is the lack of commercial hatchery-produced seed stock for stocking of production ponds.