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Dr Paul Harrison | Co-founder and Chief Scientist | MainStream Aquaculture

MainStream Aquaculture: Innovative Fish Farming for Global Food Needs

Redefining Aquaculture with Passion and Innovation!

With the world’s population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, the demand for food, particularly protein like fish, is growing rapidly. Traditional fishing methods are depleting wild fish populations, necessitating alternative solutions.

The urgency of the situation has been recognized by MainStream Aquaculture, which has risen to prominence as a pioneer in the aquaculture industry. With its commitment to ingenuity, environmental accountability, and the generation of top-notch seafood, this enterprise is revolutionizing its approach to aquaculture. Mainstream Aquaculture, founded in 2001, aims to provide sustainable and delicious fish to feed the world through eco-friendly methods. They’ve become a leading force in warm water aquaculture, specializing in Barramundi production. They operate the world’s largest Barramundi hatchery, supplying fingerlings to 31 countries across 5 continents.

This impressive initiative combines the best aspects of nature and state-of-the-art technology to produce outstanding Barramundi while promoting preservation and sustainability. This exciting aquaculture venture now extends from its urban aquaculture farms in Melbourne to the pristine rainforests of Far North Tropical Queensland, Australia, to the arid deserts of Arizona, USA. With over 22 years of fish husbandry experience, MainStream operates 5 farms in Australia and one farm in Arizona, USA. MainStream offers various domestic and export product options tailored to the market and client needs.

Bridging Science and Sustainability

Dr. Paul Harrison, a pioneer in the field of marine science, co-founded MainStream Aquaculture in 2001 with a vision of establishing an environmentally sustainable aquaculture enterprise. Armed with a Ph.D. in aquatic biology and a wealth of experience in fish production, hatchery operations, and research, Dr. Harrison embarked on a mission to merge cutting-edge aquaculture technology with ecological responsibility.

The genesis of MainStream Aquaculture’s success can be traced to the discovery of a hidden gem – an underground geothermal spring near Melbourne. This pristine water source, over 1,600 years old and devoid of impurities, provided the ideal conditions for nurturing Barramundi. Driven by a profound understanding of the species and a commitment to transcend traditional farming methods, MainStream Aquaculture has emerged as a dominant force in warm water aquaculture.

MainStream’s story began with a dream shared by Dr. Harrison, his brother, and friends—a vision of an extraordinary aquaculture enterprise. Their quest for superior water resources led them to Melbourne’s geothermally heated groundwater, a pristine source with an ideal water chemistry for aquaculture. This natural geothermal source ensured optimal conditions for cultivating tropical fish such as Barramundi.

With unwavering dedication to excellence, MainStream Aquaculture has risen to become the largest supplier of Barramundi fingerlings globally, producing 40 million fish last year and serving clients in 31 countries. The 2018 amalgamation with Pejo Enterprises cemented the company’s reputation as a nexus of science, nature, and conservation.

MainStream’s Far North Queensland farms, nestled in the Wooroonooran National Park, draw crystal-clear saltwater from the Great Barrier Reef to rear Barramundi fingerlings born in Melbourne to large food service and retail ready-sized fish. These farms feature picturesque wetlands that not only purify water but also support diverse wildlife. The company’s commitment to conservation and sustainability is further exemplified by the preservation of 32 hectares of unique wetland.

In pursuit of global expansion, MainStream Aquaculture ventured into the American market in 2022, acquiring a site in the Arizona desert strategically positioned to reach a 100 million-strong population within an 8-hour drive, encompassing important markets such as Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

MainStream Aquaculture’s approach to fish husbandry is marked by a focus on providing the best possible living environments and humane harvesting under stringent quality controls. While acknowledging that farmers can’t solve all global problems, they firmly believe in responsible protein provision.

The Future of Aquaculture

Initially envisioned as a technology-driven venture to produce various fish species globally, MainStream shifted its focus to becoming experts in Barramundi. This strategic shift enables them to excel as a vertically integration single species specialist while offering year-round Barramundi growth through fully enclosed recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and open-pond farming.

As the world’s largest supplier of Barramundi fingerlings, MainStream has maintained an unprecedented 200+ consecutive successful spawns. Its fingerlings demonstrate fast growth, robustness, consistent size, and higher fillet yields – qualities that yield the most profitable Barramundi in the industry. MainStream’s fish, marketed under the Infinity Blue brands, offer a premium, sustainable, and nutritious source of protein. Barramundi’s adaptability to various environments and its suitability for aquaculture make it a promising solution to cater to the demand for white-fleshed fish.

MainStream’s strategically located farms enable the delivery of fish through a short supply chain with minimal food miles. MainStream’s dedication to sustainable aquaculture practices is reflected in its compliance with strict regulations and its pursuit of opportunities for sustainable expansion. Holding Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) Accreditation and the Sustainable Australian Barramundi Tick underscores their commitment to responsible resource management. Free from antibiotics, hormones, colorants, and whitening agents, Barramundi from MainStream is rich in Omega-3s and low in fat, outperforming other white fish like haddock, pollock, and tilapia in Omega-3 content.

MainStream’s corporate structure, including a diverse board and shareholder support, facilitates effective collaboration with shareholders, managers, staff, technicians, suppliers, and the market. This approach has been pivotal to the company’s growth and success.

While MainStream faces market and international challenges in popularizing Barramundi, its unwavering commitment to quality and sustainability sets it apart. The company’s belief that success is attainable through determination, energy, and calculated risk-taking resonates with its entrepreneurial spirit. MainStream Aquaculture not only thrives on innovation and ambition but also recognizes its role in responsibly feeding the world.

Challenges in the Barramundi Business

Dr. Harrison has outlined a series of challenges that MainStream, grapples with daily. These challenges fall into two distinct categories: market challenges and international challenges.

Domestic Market Challenge: Within its domestic market, Australia, MainStream faces a distinct market challenge. A significant portion of the barramundi being consumed in Australia is, in reality, an imported Asian sea bass being marketed as barramundi. This situation engenders a predicament, as many Australians unknowingly believe they are consuming genuine barramundi when, in fact, they are consuming an imported substitute.

International Challenges: The primary international challenge confronting MainStream revolves around the task of gaining recognition and acceptance within the global market. Regrettably, barramundi remains an unfamiliar species to many consumers worldwide. Consequently, the company has been compelled to devote substantial efforts, primarily through its dedicated sales and marketing teams, to foster consumer recognition and acceptance.

Sustainable Aquaculture Practices

In the realm of Australian operations, MainStream adheres not only to existing regulatory frameworks but also actively seeks opportunities for sustainable expansion. The company maintains an unwavering commitment to resource conservation and operational sustainability. This commitment is exemplified by their attainment of prestigious certifications such as the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) Accreditation and the Sustainable Australian Barramundi Tick. This approach to sustainability serves as a pivotal driver for the company’s growth, as global imperatives increasingly discourage businesses that excessively deplete natural resources.

Fortune Favours the Fearless

Dr. Harrison posits a compelling perspective on the nature of success within the aquaculture industry. In his view, success is not contingent upon prior industry experience but rather hinges on one’s determination and energy. A resolute desire to achieve is the key. Dr. Harrison contends that aspiring entrepreneurs must wholeheartedly embrace risk as an integral facet of the entrepreneurial journey. He advises budding business leaders to cultivate self-confidence and embark on calculated risks, even when faced with the daunting prospect of launching a novel venture. The potential rewards, particularly in the dynamic aquaculture sector, are substantial. Furthermore, this journey aligns with a fundamental need to responsibly supply sustenance to the global populace. In essence, entrepreneurship transcends mere risk-taking; it is an essential means of fulfilling the fundamental human requirement for sustenance on a worldwide scale.

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