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Australian aquaculture is brimming with opportunities

Words by Annabel Boyer | Photo credit: Deakin University

The underwater world is known for its beauty and mystery, and Australia’s vast aquatic realms could also be the next frontier for clever problem solving and game changing innovation.

“If you are working on the assumption that entrepreneurs are hungry for good problems to solve, then the aquatic space is an exciting space,” said Matt Barwick, General Manager of Strategy and Innovation at the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC).

“We are nowhere near realising the potential value that can be achieved through aquatic resources in Australia and we are really just starting to understand the scale of the unrealised potential that exists.”

Working across Australia’s fisheries and aquaculture sectors for 30 years, the FRDC is a leading driver of research and development (R&D) and a thought leader for Australia’s fishing and aquaculture sectors.

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Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC)

The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) is a co-funded partnership between its two stakeholders, the Australian Government and the …
  • Location

    Australia

  • Organisation type

    Research funding body

Lobster pots on a fishing boat

“Our job is to help unlock value from Australia’s aquatic resources for the fishing and aquaculture sectors and the community. That places the stakeholders themselves at the centre of our universe,” said Matt.

“We need to understand their day-to-day life, pain points and opportunities so that we can help to solve problems through investment in R&D and activities to help drive adoption.”

Guided by an ambitious new strategic plan, since 2020 the FRDC has set its sights on an array of complex, multi-pronged challenges. Think climate change resilience for its sectors, turning waste into value throughout the seafood supply chain, and improving safety in some of Australia’s most dangerous professions and pastimes.

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To help meet these ambitions, the FRDC is turning to new ways of doing things and new approaches to problem solving.

"Our philosophy as an organisation is that innovation must permeate the whole organisation. We should never stop being curious and optimistic and trying new ways of solving problems. Some of them won’t work and that’s ok, that’s all about a healthy relationship with risk,” said Matt.

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To that end, the FRDC is also exploring a range of different innovation models to try and work out what does and doesn’t work for fishing and aquaculture.

“When you look across agriculture, fisheries and forestry, it’s clear that many of the challenges we are trying to solve are similar, and none of us in isolation has all the answers. So our approach must prioritise new ways of collaborating and working with others,” said Matt.  growAG. is one of those new approaches.

For FRDC, growAG. is about widening the net to the broadest possible audience.

Matt added, “For the FRDC, growAG. is about strapping a megaphone on to work that we’ve done and the problems and opportunities that are yet to be solved.”

“So much of the value presented by a centralised platform like growAG. is the cross-disciplinary opportunity, where someone from an entirely different space discovers a solution from another context that they can apply in their circumstance.”

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Agricultural Innovation Australia (AIA) is another cross-RDC initiative in which the FRDC is engaged. Matt said AIA will tackle big industry issues and will use growAG. to build on existing research to attract global solution providers to Australia’s farming challenges.

While it’s entirely possible to explore the growAG. site by sector, the FRDC hopes people will be able to engage with the site from the perspective of ‘what’s the problem I’m trying to solve?’

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Fisheries bountiful opportunities for investors and solution providers   

There are 366 (and counting) FRDC research projects featured on growAG.. In addition, the FRDC is also seeking engagement from investors, solution providers and problem solvers with four commercial opportunities. These range across the gamut of FRDC’s business including opportunities related to reduction of plastics and waste, optimising worker safety, disease detection and management and improving aquatic animal safety:

The FRDC is now publishing its open calls for research and development project applications on growAG..

For the FRDC, commercialisation is about solving clearly defined problems by bringing new knowledge, products or services to market for adoption through commercial channels. The FRDC is looking to engage with anyone around the globe who is interested in solving similar problems, whether they are someone who can throw light on a problem or bring a solution or energy to the table as an entrepreneur, inventor or investor.

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It’s well understood that one of the more effective ways to drive impact through R&D is to connect the knowledge, products or services that are created with a viable entity that has the ability to realise outcomes by commercial means. If you are an entrepreneur or investor and you are interested in sustainability and growth, then there is probably a really valuable conversation to be had about how we can work together.

Matt Barwick
Food safety inspection of seafood in labour

How to engage with FRDC

The FRDC open calls for applications happen twice a year. They provide the opportunity to respond to one of the published priorities or to submit an original idea. Applications to the next open call will be open in December and due early in 2022.

To discuss an idea with an FRDC staff member, contact FRDC’s Research, Development and Investment team here.

A video guide to what FRDC funds and doesn’t fund.

Explore and engage with all seven FRDC commercial opportunities here.

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