Josh Goldman is the Managing Director of Australis Aquaculture, the only commercial producer of farmed barramundi in the United States. He has over 20 years of experience in aquaculture management and is a pioneer of closed containment aquaculture systems. Josh founded one of the first integrated tilapia and hydroponics farms, the largest indoor striped bass operation, and one of the U.S.'s first commercial marine fish hatcheries. Josh believes responsible aquaculture has a vital role to play in relieving pressure from the oceans while ensuring increasing seafood suppliesfor future generations. Australis Aquaculture US was named a 2009 Seafood Champion.
What is your favorite seafood?
That’s an unfair question. But really, in addition to barramundi, I love a wide variety of seafood. My favorite experiences are having a proud local insist that I taste their regional delicacy where it’s caught or grown. A lot of great memories have come from these meals.
Barramundi is a relatively new product in the U.S. Has it been popular with chefs and retailers?
The reaction has been incredibly positive. Chefs and consumers have told us that they love our barramundi’s delicate flavor and texture, its versatility and the fact that it stays moist during cooking. Over the past two years we’ve increased the oil and omega-3 content in our barra by 5-fold, so it’s even better today than when we first introduced it. Plus, barramundi is Australia’s favorite fish, so it hasa nice caché.
How did you get interested in the issue of sustainable seafood?
As a kid, I was a real nature and animal lover, and was always interested in the potential for technology to address human needs. In college, I got involved with integrated aquaculture out of a conviction that the way we produce and use food, energy and other resources should be radically reinvented. From these concerns, I developed some of the first closed containment aquaculture systems and later started one of the first integrated tilapia and hydroponics farms. Over the years, I developed water reuse technologies to improve the environmental performance of aquaculture systems, and applied these technologies around the world. Over time, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. Twenty years ago, very few people had heard of sustainable seafood. Now, it’s the buzzword of the industry and it’s great to see the world moving solidly in this direction.
How would you describe your philosophy on ocean conservation?
I believe political systems around the world will be tested as governments face tough choices between the need for stricter conservation and fishing communities' economic needs. These challenges will only be magnified as populations grow and more people look to consume seafood as a healthy protein source. For these reasons, I believe responsible aquaculture has a vital role to play in relieving pressure from the oceans while ensuring that seafood supplies can be increased without compromising the future.
How has your philosophy affected the species you choose to raise and/or how you raise your fish?
About a decade ago, I observed that the aquaculture industry was selecting new species to raise based on what I felt were shortsighted criteria. I believed strongly that sustainability should be given greater weight in the selection process, particularly given the time required to move new species through the development process into commercial production. I was also convinced that sustainability-related considerations would increasingly drive the economics of the aquaculture business as well as consumer behavior. I became enamored with barramundi because its biological attributes allow it to thrive in closed containment systems and it can utilize grain-based proteins and oils to a much greater extent than other carnivorous species.
In fact, Australis Barramundi has a very high omega-3 level (comparable to Coho salmon), but we only need to use a small percentage of fish oil to achieve this – a significant plus from a sustainability perspective.
Have your customers noticed?
Absolutely! We’ve been getting more and more inquiries from chefs, retailers, distributors and consumers looking for sustainable (and tasty) replacements for overfished species like Chilean sea bass, red snapper and grouper. Our marketing focus is to seek committed partners who are willing to work with us to educate their customers on the benefits of sustainable seafood, and promote barramundi as an exciting new fish that they’ll enjoy and feel good about serving and eating.
Do you feel sustainability criteria limit what you can offer?
No, in fact, I feel just the opposite. We’re excited to maintain our focus on barramundi because we believe we’ve only begun to tap its potential. Until recently, we weren’t able to keep up with demand. We’ve addressed this by expanding production of our fresh product and launching an overseas operation that will produce 5,000 – 10,000 metric tons of sustainably-raised frozen barramundi over the next several years. That’s still a fairly small number in comparison to tilapia or salmon, so we’ll still have to be selective in whom we partner with, but it should give us sufficient volume to “get the word out”.
Have your clients worked with you?
For the most case, yes, although in the seafood business it’s still about the bottom line. So whatever we offer, it has to align with our customers’ economics and what their customers want. We try to make it easy by providing a wide array of promotional material, but in the end, our best clients are those who are truly passionate about offering a healthy, delicious and sustainably-raised fish and are willing to put in the extra effort to excite their customers.
What trends have you noticed in seafood in the past 10 years?
Historically, availability and price were the key drivers in the seafood business. We’re now seeing a shift towards a more market-oriented approach, which is required to maximize the value of increasingly scarce resources. The industry has also become much more global, which presents fascinating challenges for all of us. At Australis, we’ve developed control systems and traceability for sourced product that exceeds the industry standards. This is designed to ensure a higher level of food safety, quality and sustainability than is generally available. In addition to being the right thing to do, we see it as a strategic asset, which is important for us as a publicly owned company.
Why do you support Seafood Choices Alliance?
On a personal level, it’s gratifying to be part of a community that understands the potential for business to implement solutions to some of our most pressing problems. Professionally, Seafood Choices has helped Australis develop excellent relationships with buyers and environmental organizations who share our passion for protecting the seas, and are equally committed to working with us. That's just good business. Plus, we love the upbeat nature of Seafood Choices' mission, and the people are great!
Updated October 27, 2007
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