Repton crop of gold
By UTE SCHULENBERG
GREEN saltwater ponds might be a worry to some but for the Pottage family at Repton, their prawn ponds are possibly their own golden ponds.
Last week the hardworking Curly Prawns team started harvesting their first crop of locally grown tiger prawns.
"At the end of October we put 300,000 of what looked like mozzie larvae into the six ponds," son Mick Pottage said.
"Now we are pulling about 600 kilograms of prawns out a week."
All has not, however, gone swimmingly for the new venture.
The other week it weathered its first flood, a recent late night blackout had alarms ringing to warn of impending oxygen shortages in the ponds, and even collecting the stock from the Gold Coast hatchery became an epic.
"We had three blow-outs on the way home," Mr Pottage said.
"It's a good thing my background is in theatre and drama, because there is plenty of that."
The prawn farm came into being thanks to the accidental meeting between the Pottages and aquaculturalist Stephan Soule.
"Previously this was an eel farm," Mr Pottage said.
"When we bought here, the fisheries licences had prawns as an option, so Stephan looked into it and now we are the southernmost prawn farm in Australia."
The larvae are harvested from wild tiger females in Queensland.
"Each female carries up to 300,000 eggs. These are removed and then grown in the hatcheries until they are robust larvae, which we then purchase," Mr Soule said.
"The young prawns only need six months to grow out."
He said farming prawns enhances their survival in the wild because it provides alternative supplies to consumers.
"The other day we pulled out 58kg in one and a half hours. The fishermen are out all night, paying for a deckhand and petrol and they are only bringing in 20 or 30kg."
The farm requires constant vigilance.
The prawns are hand-fed three times a day (they are currently consuming 120kg of feed daily), oxygen, temperature and pH have to be checked plus there is weekly monitoring of ammonia and other elements.
And once they are harvested there is the sorting (also by hand ? the big ones are kept for the 'green' market), cooking, cooling and brining before they go off to local markets.
Patriarch Frank Pottage said he was relieved to see the first prawns being hauled to the surface.
"Up until now we weren't really sure how they were going ? you can't see them like fish," he said. "But this lot are coming up magnificent."
This weekend Curly Prawns are having an open weekend with free tastings. They will be open all weekend from 9am to 6pm. For more information phone 0422 176 654 or 6655 4855.