Murray cod growth catches on with celebrity chef endorsement 

Published: August 2019 

A NSW Murray cod farm has enlisted the support of a celebrity chef to raise its profile and share price. 

Farmed Murray cod have caught the eye of British chef Heston Blumenthal. Source: Aquna. 
WORLD-FAMOUS chef Heston Blumenthal has been hooked on farmed NSW Murray cod. He has taken up 1.5 million shares in Murray Cod Australia (MCA) and its premium pond-grown Aquna brand, based at Griffith in the Riverina, and his support has boosted the share price on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).

“Since we listed on the ASX two years ago, shares have gone up 340%, so we expect even more growth will occur now,” MCA chair Ross Anderson told the ABC.

“[Heston] loved the scientific aspects of how we grow the fish and how we can produce a fish that has a better taste than one you’d catch in the wild.”

The celebrity chef has been signed up as the business’s key advocate for five years and visited the Griffith Murray cod farm in May.

“Because of its fat levels, without being too rich, this fish is incredibly versatile,” Heston said. 

Murray cod is quick and easy to cook. Source: Aquna. 

“You can roast it, you can pan-fry it, you can grill it, you can steam it, you can smoke it, you can sashimi it, you can do just about anything you want with it. I’m now thinking about Murray cod ice cream.”

Launched in July 2018, Aquna Sustainable Murray Cod is the new brand identity for MCA. The name is derived from Akuna, an Indigenous word for flowing water, with a ‘q’ to provide synergy with aquaculture.

Central to the branding is the farming method. “Our Murray cod is grown in open ponds, in their native water, using industry-leading, sustainable practices,” says an MCA spokesperson. “Our purpose-built systems allow us to grow tastier fish.”

The clever new branding of Murray cod 

Griffith chef and farm owner Luke Piccolo. Credit: Rebecca Rosconi Photography. Source: Aquna. 

Once upon a time, Murray cod had a reputation for tasting “muddy”, a legacy of their life in the river. But Griffith chef and Murray Cod Australia ambassador Luke Piccolo – the owner of Piccolo Family Farm – told the ABC: “Having a farmed fish that has a really mild and clean flavour has really changed the way that people think about the fish.”

Luke met Heston Blumenthal on the chef’s visit to Griffith, and served him a meal of Murray cod cooked four ways. “We have a rotating menu, so over the past three years we have cooked it hundreds of different ways,” Luke told the ABC.

In turn, Luke tasted Heston’s cod recipes. “The way he cooked it over his barbecue in some interesting ways, by wrapping it in hay and smoking it, was something I hadn’t seen before.”
Swimming facts about Murray cod 

  • The Murray cod is the largest freshwater fish found in Australia. The largest cod ever caught was 113.5kg, at an estimated age of 80 years.
  • The fish is a native of the Murray-Darling Basin, but no commercial fishing is allowed as it is listed as vulnerable.
  • In NSW from 2017/18, 265,899kg of Murray cod was produced, averaging $18.38/kg, according to the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Aquaculture Production Report.
  • While commercial hatcheries have operated for a number of years producing cod fingerlings to stock rivers and dams, commercial farming is in its infancy, according to the DPI.
  • Murray cod were once abundant in the Murray-Darling system, but overfishing and environmental changes have hit hard. The species has been stocked in other river systems in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, but has generally failed in those areas.
  • The cod are voracious feeders and predators. Their diet consists of fish, crustaceans, water birds, frogs, turtles and terrestrial animals such as mice and snakes.
  • MCA’s Murray cod begin life at its hatchery at Grong Grong and fingerlings are then sent to the Bilbul nursery near Griffith. No fish are taken from the wild. After the fish reach 100g, at four to six months, they are transferred to nearby dams for about a year, until they reach 1-1.5kg and are ready to hit the market.
                                                             Sources: NSW Department of Primary Industries, Murray Cod Australia

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