“The answer might be simply to find a better fish, one more suited to farming. This is exactly what Goldman set out to do. He got into aquaculture in the 1980s as a college student and had a tilapia-farming operation for a few years. But while tilapia are more sustainable than many other fish because they’re vegetarians, they lack the high amounts of omega-3 oils that make salmon so heart-healthy. Goldman tried striped bass but found them too fussy to raise. It wasn’t until a chance encounter with an Australian entrepreneur that he found his dream fish: the barramundi.
As a farmed species, the barramundi is just about perfect.
It can survive in a wide variety of environments and lays eggs frequently. It has a flexible diet, and much like its fellow Australians, it is laid-back by nature, so it can endure the rigors of farming. Goldman launched Australis in Turners Falls in 2004 and was producing barramundi commercially by 2005. The fish is rich in omega-3 oils; Dr. Oz named it one of his top superfoods in 2010. Less than 20% of the barramundi’s feed at Australis comes from fish meal and fish oil — a better percentage than for many farmed salmon, which can require as much as 50% of their feed from fish meal. The Turners Falls operation is an indoor, closed recirculating system, so there’s little waste, little risk of disease and no threat that the barramundi will escape into the wild. Plus, barramundi tastes good, with the flaky mouthfeel of the better-known sea bass. Goldman’s real challenge is convincing Americans — with their appetite for shrimp, tuna and salmon — that they should eat an unfamiliar Australian fish. “Selling it as sustainable helps,” he says. “But once they try it, people like it.”