Novacq prawn feed, developed by CSIRO, is helping Australian prawn farmers grow bigger, healthier prawns sustainably, faster and cheaper.

The Challenge

Boosting productivity while reducing prawn farmers' reliance on wild fish stocks

Until now, Australian prawn farmers have needed to feed their prawns with a pellet that included fish meal or fish oil to ensure the prawns grew fast and were a healthy and high-quality product for consumers. With the world's wild fish stocks under pressure, our scientists went looking for new and better ways to sustainably boost productivity.

[Music plays and text appears:  We asked CSIRO]

[Image changes to show an outside shot of the Ridley warehouse and then moves to show people working inside]

Dr Matthew Briggs: The core business of Ridley Aqua Feed is to produce the best prawn diet for the Australian market. And our objectives are to make this as environmentally friendly and sustainable as we possibly can.

[Image changes to show Dr. Matthew Briggs, Technical Project Manager – Ridley AgriProducts]

And that's really where Novacq comes in to its own here.

[Music plays and image of people performing different tasks play on screen]

Novacq is a sustainably produced raw material. When included in to the prawn diet it increases the growth rate of the prawns and reduces their requirement for feed. So you're in effect feeding less feed to get more prawn.

CSIRO have spent the last ten years developing and patenting this product.  When we found out about the work they've done with that we asked CSIRO if we could become involved in the marketing and development of this product to satisfy our customers.

[Image changes to show Dr. Richard Smullen, Group Technical and R&D Manager – Ridley AgriProducts]

Dr Richard Smullen: What Novacq will allow us to do is have probably the most cost effective diet in the world.

[Image has changed back to Dr Matthew Briggs]

Dr Matthew Briggs: We can use this product to replace the scarce and increasingly expensive raw materials from the sea, the fish meal and the fish oil that is traditionally used in prawn diets with land based protein. And thereby produce a more environmentally friendly and effective feed.

[Image has changed back to Dr Richard Smullen and then shows the production line and finished bagged aqua-feed product]

Dr Richard Smullen: So kilo for kilo our diet is not only the most sustainable diet in the world with Novacq, but will also be the most cost effective diet in the world.

[Image has changed back to Dr Matthew Briggs]

Dr Matthew Briggs: This has been a real game changer for us here in Ridley. If it wasn't for the likes of CSIRO we wouldn't have Novacq and we wouldn't be in the position that we are today.  So overall, this R&D that is supported by CSIRO is absolutely fundamental to our industry. 

[Music plays and CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here www.csiro.au]

We asked CSIRO: Ridley Aqua-feed :  Ridley Aqua-feed on working with us

Our Response

An entirely natural food source produced by marine microbes

The research started in the late 1990s when CSIRO researchers observed the important role marine microbial organisms play in the natural diet of prawns. The team spent several years learning how to manipulate marine microbial organisms to maximise their productivity in controlled environments, and stimulating them to produce a novel bioactive product to enhance prawn growth.

The research integrated skills in prawn biology, microbiology, biochemistry and nutrition. The result was Novacq, an entirely natural food source produced by marine microbes.

The Results

Bigger, healthier, faster-growing prawns and a new Australian industry

Prawns fed with Novacq grow on average 20-30 per cent faster, are healthier and can be produced with no wild fish products in their diet. This means more profit for prawn farmers and less pressure on our precious marine resources. It has also stimulated a whole new industry in Australia: the production of sustainable prawn feed.

The first of a series of patents for the Novacq production technology was granted in 2009. Since then, the CSIRO Novacq team has worked closely with Australian and Asian prawn farmers and feed manufacturing companies to implement a global commercialisation strategy.

The production of Novacq has commenced under licence in Australia, and in China and Vietnam, two of the world's largest producers of farmed prawns. Additional markets for Novacq technology are under development in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Our Novacq licensees anticipate that the benefits of Novacq will be available to all Australian prawn farmers by 2015.

In 2014, the team that developed and commercialised Novacq was recognised with the CSIRO Medal for Impact from Science.

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