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Huon Aquaculture

The differences between cattle and salmon may be as obvious as they are numerous, but there is one in particular that Peter Bender, founder of Huon Aquaculture, used to find particularly frustrating.

“If you feed cattle a bale of hay you can tell when they have eaten it. With fish, unless you utilise technology, you won't really have a clue.”

A man of the land from way back, Peter turned to what he knew best to solve the problem.

Using traditional sheep and cattle feeders as his inspiration, Peter worked with sensor technicians to develop infra-red technology that could identify whether fish feed pellets had been eaten by the time they reached a certain depth in the pen, triggering automated feeders accordingly.

This was world-first technology at the time of its invention and involved building specific feed bins, spinners to spread the feed, and even boats for filling the hoppers with feed. Peter and his team continue to improve and refine their system (which is why there are still boat building facilities at the Huon Aquaculture site) but the concept has now been commercialised and taken up internationally.

Such is Peter's nature - and his innovative spirit and cheerful respect for his product filters right down through every employee at Huon Aquaculture. Or at least the ones that we've met, anyway.

To be introduced to Tasmania-based Huon Aquaculture at this stage in their life is sort of like meeting Usain Bolt on the track after winning his sixth gold medal. Combining sustainable farming practices, cutting edge technology and pristine surrounds, 'Huon' as they're affectionately known, are seriously on top of their game.

Founded by Huon Valley locals Peter and Frances Bender in the late 1980's, Huon Aquaculture now employs 450 people and goes beyond the whole HOG (whole salmon with their 'Heads-On and Gutted') to produce premium grade gravlax, cold smoked whisky cured portions, silken hot smoked salmon fillets and even hand-milked caviar.

To create products of this standard and remain fully vertically integrated is no mean feat. Through the gradual acquisition of processing plants and smoking and packaging facilities over the last 20 years, and the development of their own RSPCA-approved harvesting equipment and hatcheries, Huon are able to oversee and control every step of their product's life cycle. In doing so, Huon has helped to bolster the salmon industry in both the local and domestic market.

Anyone who's eaten Huon salmon knows that they're onto something. Peter acknowledges that vertical integration, along with the the science behind the Huon method, has a huge impact on the flavour of the salmon, but he also puts a lot of it down to locale.

By moving fish pens between the Huon River, Hideaway Bay and, as the fish mature, the cooler Southern Ocean, Huon are able to mimic the natural life cycle of a wild salmon and alleviate stress by avoiding certain waters at certain temperatures.

The fact that the water is fed from tributaries that start in classified world heritage areas and is free from the pests and diseases that salmon in the northern hemisphere is just one of a myriad of advantages to farming the salmon in Tasmania.

That it's one of the most beautiful places in the world surely can't hurt the fish, either.

Huon salmon and caviar are available here.