The business concept started in 2012 when Mat established Riverina Aquaculture. After running his own successful dryland farming business in NSW for 15 years, Mat began to look at other ways he could apply his knowledge of farming systems to diversify his business and safeguard against the ups and downs of cropping.
Recognising the abundance of good quality water and agricultural land in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation area of NSW, Mat carried out extensive market research into using his water for growing fish. He soon established that the fresh waters of the Riverina are perfect for Murray Cod aquaculture and that these high value fish, unique to Australia’s Murray Darling Basin, could be cultured sustainably and to a very high quality within well engineered outdoor cage systems in these waters.
Mat successfully developed a system of fish management in his dams at Bilbul just outside Griffith. After proving his concept with initial small crops of Murray Cod, Mat identified the benefits of the business moving to a more vertically integrated model. He began discussions with local successful agribusiness owners Roger and George Commins about establishing a joint venture to develop an aquaculture supply, service and marketing business incorporating a hatchery, nursery, grow-out facility and processing plant, and in 2015, Bidgee Fresh was formed.
Roger and George have an extensive, successful history in agribusiness and bring a wealth of farming and manufacturing experience to the venture. Amongst their diverse business operations is a stainless steel manufacturing business, which is a great advantage for Bidgee Fresh as much of the construction of the farm and fish growing equipment can be done in-house.
Previously, Bidgee Fresh have sourced fingerlings from external Murray Cod hatcheries, but this year their stock will come from their own hatchery. Having formed a relationship with Ian Charles, a long time native fish hatchery operator, the plan is to integrate both hatchery operations to improve the capacity of stock production for Bidgee Fresh with a longer term plan of being able to supply advanced stockers to other growers also.
The growing conditions at Bidgee Fresh are ideal for producing top quality fish. The fingerlings mature in a nursery system before being moved into large cages that sit submerged in the fresh waters of the irrigation system. The fish are fed a specifically formulated native fish pellet tailored to their nutritional requirements. The waters of the irrigation channel pass through the fish cages and are then recycled through the cropping enterprise.
The end result is a stunning fish with yellow / olive green mottling, a silvery belly and white fin tips. The flesh is white, flaky and juicy with a creamy taste and is simply delicious. The market for Bidgee Fresh Murray Cod is hungry for more of this beautiful eating, top quality fish. Fortunately for lovers of this iconic Australian fish, there are big plans ahead for the business and the future looks bright for this innovative team of fish farmers.