By Peter Kerr 28/01/2016

Years ago for a farm management report at Lincoln University, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek plan around the integration of goldfish in troughs on dairy farms (we’d spotted the use of such technology to help keep the troughs clean).

Koura (native freshwater crayfish). Picture by J Clayton, NIWA

Well here’s a huge expansion on this idea, one that’s taken my fancy…this time utilising water ponds kept on hand by forestry companies in case they ever need to fight a fire.

(Check out the story here in last year’s Otago Daily Times)

Ernslaw One started with an experiment in one of its Maniototo forest ponds, growing koura, or freshwater crayfish, and it has been such a success, it is going to expand the programme around some of its 2000 ponds spread throughout Southland and Otago.

The original idea came about during a staff meeting not long after 2008’s global financial crisis when log prices dropped and employees were asked what else might be used to generate income from the forestry land.

Research backed by Sustainable Farming Fund grant

A Sustainable Farming Fund grant helped provide some in-depth scientific research on ponds and enabled development of a best-practice guide for koura faming. The guide of this draft will be available in February.

As you would, Ernslaw’s learned a lot of the ins and outs of farming the native crayfish; including preferred habitat and companion planting.

First sales of the koura were made last year to Hilton Queenstown.

This is a really clever initiative, making use of a resource that would otherwise be (wasted?, you can’t really call having water waiting on hand a waste surely) underutilised.

The gap between coming up with an idea and creating a whole new industry is also quite immense, so there’s a lot of credit due to all involved.

Its a lovely wee fishy tale.