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More barra for your buck: Queensland researcher’s farmed fish breakthrough

A Queensland researcher hopes his plan to speed up barramundi breeding will mean more of the Australian favourite will make it onto plates sooner.

May 16, 2023, updated May 16, 2023
James Cook University (JCU) PhD Candidate Jarrod Guppy holding an anaesthetised male barramundi that is about two-years-old from JCU’s Marine and Aquaculture Research Facility in Townsville. Guppy is working to halve the time it takes for barramundi to reach breeding age, in a project that could have wider benefits to Australia's aquaculture industry. (AAP Image/Supplied by James Cook University)

James Cook University (JCU) PhD Candidate Jarrod Guppy holding an anaesthetised male barramundi that is about two-years-old from JCU’s Marine and Aquaculture Research Facility in Townsville. Guppy is working to halve the time it takes for barramundi to reach breeding age, in a project that could have wider benefits to Australia's aquaculture industry. (AAP Image/Supplied by James Cook University)

The goal to halve the time it takes for barramundi to reach sexual maturity could have applications for other species of seafood.

Australia is a net importer of barramundi, and James Cook University’s Jarrod Guppy aims to apply cutting-edge genetic techniques to creat a next-generation breed after receiving a $470,000, three-year research fellowship from the Australian Research Council.

“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,” the aquaculture geneticist and PhD Candidate 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.”

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Mr Guppy is partnering with Mainstream Aquaculture, the world’s largest barramundi breeding company.

His team will take samples of barramundi at different stages of sexual maturation and compare their genes, proteins and hormones to better understand their reproductive development and path to maturity.

Research will also be carried out at the university’s aquaculture research facility in Townsville and Mainstream’s hatchery facilities.

The research aims to help producers meet the voracious appetite for not only barramundi, which in Australia had a total production in 2020 of just under $100 million, but for other species of seafood as well.

“The knowledge that we’re gaining here is really the starting point,” Mr Guppy said.

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