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A New Chapter for Australis:
Parting Ways with the Turners Falls Farm

WRITTEN BY: Josh Goldman

The world has changed a lot since we first introduced barramundi 14 years ago. It was, and remains, a great time to introduce a new fish to the world. Back then, the sustainable seafood movement was just starting to gain momentum and progressive chefs were on the lookout for innovative products that embodied a new ethos of responsible farming.

Because the values of the sustainable seafood movement are closely intertwined with those that have propelled local foods to prominence, it was powerful to be both local and sustainable.

Our indoor farm in Turners Falls, MA 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. In addition to the innovative systems we developed, we learned a lot about managing the interactions between fish and their human-created environment.  Designing robust ways to observe and manage these interactions was one of our biggest accomplishments.

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. The emergence of climate change as the overarching environmental issue of our time, along with more accurate ways to assess climate impacts, has forever altered our thinking.

I have come to the view that new approaches to ocean farming have the greatest potential to provide affordable, ocean-friendly and climate-smart seafood at a globally meaningful scale. We still rely on RAS to raise our small fish before transferring them to ocean-based farms.  This is analogous to starting a tomato in a greenhouse to give it a head start and ensure it’s healthy before transplanting. We see this ‘hybrid’ solution as the most efficient way to grow fish today and the cornerstone of the next generation of sustainable seafood production.

Australis’ farms in Vietnam were the world’s first marine fin-fish farm to earn a Best Choice rating by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program. More recently, we became BAP 4-Star certified, validating that done well, ocean farming can be delicious and sustainable.

A couple of weeks ago, we announced the sale of our Turners Falls farm to Great Falls Aquaculture, a company that is building a portfolio of farms in the Northeast US. Its management team includes Keith Wilda, who was formerly Production Manager at our Turners Falls facility. I am confident that Keith and the Australis production team that is staying with them will do a great job of carrying domestic production of barramundi forward.

As for myself, along with our executive, sales, logistics, finance, and marketing team members, we will carry on exactly as before, situated in new offices in downtown Greenfield, MA.

As our Vietnam production grew over the past decade, 100% of the fish we raised in Turners Falls were sold to specialty live markets in the US and Canada, where our fish could be showcased at its best and “liveliest” form.  This means that unless you purchase your barramundi live, the source and quality of the fish you buy from us will not change.

To our customers, thank you for your ongoing support of Australis Barramundi and your commitment to advancing sustainable seafood. We have compiled a short Q&A below in case you have question about the sale. If you’re wondering about something else, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at hello [at] thebetterfish.com.

Q&A

How will this change the Australis Barramundi that I buy now?

You won’t experience any change at all! All of the barramundi we produce for retail and foodservice has come from our central Vietnam ocean farm for many years. If you cannot find Australis Barramundi in your market, ask your favorite grocer and ask them to carry it!

Why should I support a “foreign raised” seafood product when there’s plenty of sustainable domestic options?

We agree that there are many great domestic seafood products. However, not every market has access to the best options and being “domestic” doesn’t guarantee sustainability by default. By choosing Australis Barramundi, you are supporting responsible animal welfare, social, and environmental practices.

Because seafood is such a vast global market, we need to support organizations that are doing things the right way. Very simply, look for BAP and ASC (for farm-raised) or MSC (for wild-caught) certified products, and be mindful about the green/yellow/red rated species on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list.

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