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December 19, 2015

Australia

History—Vale Frank Roberts (1933–2015), Remembered

 

The success of the Australian prawn farming industry owes much of its success to the entrepreneurial spirit and drive of Vale Frank Roberts, who harvested the country’s first commercial crop of farmed shrimp from ponds on his converted sugarcane farm at Yamba, New South Wales, in 1984.

 

The business he began more than 30 years ago continues to operate today as Tru Blu Prawn Farms, and the industry he helped pioneer is now worth more than $50 million annually.

 

Back in the 1980s, shrimp farming was a high-risk, capital-intensive venture with hazards that ranged from cold snaps and disease to hungry cormorants and human poachers.

 

When he made the decision that shrimp farming was the industry for him, it did not matter that everyone said it would not work, or that there were no examples in Australia to learn from.  More than once he faced financial ruin when his crops were wiped, but he pressed on, ultimately becoming recognized as a shrimp farming authority.

 

A longtime member of the Australian Prawn Farmers Association, Roberts helped lead the way for others by sharing his hard-won expertise.  Always the innovator, he pioneered the export of live tiger shrimp (Penaeus japonicus) to Japan, which ultimately proved unviable.

 

Many others have taken up shrimp farming since Roberts launched his new venture, and the industry has attracted significant government-supported research to overcome the challenges.  With improved genetics and production processes, the industry he helped to found has become one of the most productive and sustainable shrimp-farming systems in the world.

 

Source: FISH (The Magazine of the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation of Australia).  Prawn Farming Pioneer Remembered/Vale Frank Roberts, 18 August 1933–September 2015.  December 2015.

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