Farmed lobster now possible

World-leading aquaculture breakthrough to transform lobster production.

Australian companies are being offered the opportunity to collaborate with the University of Tasmania to scale up and commercialize the elements of its innovative rock lobster aquaculture systems and related technologies.

Despite the high value of rock lobsters, before now, their long and complex life-cycle made it impossible to produce the lobsters in a commercially scalable hatchery process.

In a breakthrough for aquaculture, funded in part by the Australian Research Council, the ARC Research Hub for Commercial Development of Rock Lobster Culture Systems based at the Institute for Marine & Antarctic Studies (IMAS) in Hobart, Tasmania, has developed a unique, scalable, “closed-loop” aquaculture system that makes it possible to establish a new commercial industry for sustainable rock lobster production.

University of Tasmania deputy vice chancellor (research) Brigid Heywood said the research is particularly advanced with the tropical rock lobster species Panulirus ornatus.

“This breakthrough has created exciting commercial opportunities for Australian companies interested in establishing rock lobster aquaculture ventures," Heywood said. “Importantly, it also opens the door for other species that can benefit from our advances in hatchery systems design, nutrition and disease control.”

Research program director Greg Smith said the technology had been transferred to a commercial entity, and researchers are keen to partner with others to test the process in pilot commercial facilities.

“This world-leading science, developed from more than 17 years of lobster research, has significantly reduced disease, shortened larval duration and overcome long-standing density and metamorphosis challenges," Smith said. “While further research will optimize commercial benefits and allow us to scale up, we have demonstrated our hatchery process at our research facility in Taroona in mass rearing tanks, which can annually produce tens of thousands of juveniles suitable for stocking commercial growout facilities.”

The University of Tasmania is now seeking partnerships with Australian companies to participate in the Research Hub and would like to hear from potential industry partners interested in developing a pilot commercial rock lobster hatchery, conducting trials of the technology's use for slipper lobster, western rock lobster and crabs or evaluating the suitability of the lobster feed formulation for other established aquaculture species.

The underpinning patent protected intellectual property developed to date is owned by UTAS-Nexus Aquasciences Pty. Ltd., a newly formed company based in Tasmania.

The University of Tasmania, as the exclusive licensee for the technology in Australia, is in the position to be able to offer new partners in the Research Hub a license to the relevant intellectual property so participants may exploit the technology in Australia and export internationally.

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