Young Achiever Leads Knowledge Quest to Japan

Justine Arnold, Aquaculture Technical Manager at Indian Ocean Fresh Australia (IOFA), took home the prestigious ‘Premier’s Agriculture and Aquaculture Entrepreneurship Program’ last year. The program enabled her to conduct a ‘Knowledge Quest’, by leading a group of participants to Japan to learn new skills and techniques directly from experienced Japanese Yellowtail Kingfish farmers and researchers. This young achiever learnt a great deal – from the variances of the supply chain processes to the different species cultured – and looks forward to now working with her team to explore new opportunities required for the rapidly emerging aquaculture industry in WA.  

Justine Arnold, IOFA Technical Manager on a fish farm in Nagasaki.

 Yellowtail kingfish (YTK) culture in WA spans less than 10 years – making Japan the ideal destination (or case study) as the country has been farming the species for over 50 years.

Justine Arnold and Japanese Interpreter inspecting a juvenile fish feeding system in Saiki, Japan.

“Japan was chosen due to the similarities in farming environments when compared to Western Australia. Both Japan and WA farm Yellowtail Kingfish (YTK) in warm waters resulting in faster growth.”

“Faster growth can result in different health challenges and if not managed correctly can lead to inefficient farming practices with little to no profitability,” she said.

The 10-day, faced-paced quest, saw participants travel around the southern part of Japan, beginning with a road trip around the island of Kyushu, followed by internal plane flights and train rides to Osaka and Wakayama before coming to an end in Tokyo. Justine said that the trip provided the team with plethora of significant information from a wide variety of stakeholders.

From Left to Right, Justine Arnold (IOFA Technical Manager), Board Director Nagasaki Fish Farmer, Erica Starling IOFA Managing Director, Japanese Interpreter, Gavin Partridge ACAAR Senior Research Scientist.

“The ‘Knowledge Quest’ took place in November 2017, with 5 participants on the trip including myself, Managing Director of Indian Ocean Fresh Australia (IOFA), Australian Center of Applied Aquaculture Research (ACAAR) Senior Research Scientist, a Fish Veterinarian and a Fish Pathologist.”

“We met with famers, farm workers, contacts from southern universities of Japan, university professors, researchers and students who briefed us on management strategies and techniques developed for warm water kingfish culture. We also learnt about the differences of their supply chain processes and even the variances of consumer behavior.”

“A bonus was meeting with researchers that are the authors of journals articles, such as parasite management and nutritional trials, articles that are utilised within the aquaculture industry in Western Australia.”

“Going forward, it will be a lot easier to collaborate on research projects with Japanese researchers and universities – after expanding our networks,” she said.

The team visited 3 Seriola farms in Japan. Each Seriola farm visited cultured the three main species of Seriola, Hiramasa (farmed in WA), Amberjack and Buri. Justine explained, that each farm was different in terms of species cultured, feeding techniques, cage infrastructure, parasite management, harvesting techniques and marketing.

“One farm we visited cultured 9 different species of fish. They trucked live fish to the market which underwent processing once arrived. 2 hours later the fish was ready to be sold and 4 hours it was on plates in restaurants being consumed.”

Prepared portion of fresh fish available for purchase in Japanese supermarkets,

“What we found was that Japanese consumers tend to buy fresh seafood from supermarkets daily – in smaller portions – in comparison to Australian buyers who tend to shop once for the whole week,” she said.

“It goes to show that the supply chain process, and demand, is very different to what we seen, and is known, in Australia.”

Concluding, Justine said that the team, brimming of expertise, complemented each other enabling absorption of the information communicated. She said she looks forward to implementing what they learnt for the potential of better management strategies and farming practices in WA and an increased support for aquaculture in WA.

Feeding Buri in Nagasaki

“The experience gave us the ability to look at ideas, from different angles regarding farming techniques, equipment design, parasite management, bathing technology, feeding techniques – with several concepts already implemented at IOFA.”

“What we noticed was the technology and equipment utilised in Japanese aquaculture farming can be adapted, and slightly altered, to the farming conditions here in WA. Aquaculture doesn’t have a one size fits all solution, and it is important that we learn from countries leading in the space, so we can continue to develop and improve.”

“An area that needs work is education. The industry connection to universities in Japan in strong. It would be great to see more industry collaboration with students studying aquaculture in WA.”

“The aim of the quest was to learn from respected leaders in Japan and apply these learnings not only at IOFA but for the benefit of the aquaculture sector in Western Australia. And that is what we plan to do. Watch this space!”