African trout to give salmon a run

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The success and growth of a South African rainbow trout ova-grower could give sales of salmon eggs a run for their money, Salmon Business has learned.

The rainbow trout is a salmonid species of the oceangoing version called ‘steelhead’ that heads up rivers in wild runs up and down Western North America. Commercially, the rainbow will take another run at salmon fame, if Roy Charsley, the CEO of Dunkeld Trout Hatcheries in South Africa succeeds with his growth plans.

Trout and salmon are interchangeable in many consumers’ minds, and some growers see opportunity in a similar product. Farmed trout has certain advantages over its farmed cousin: “It’s more stable in terms of price. The price rarely drops, and as you know salmon markets are volatile. The price can go through the roof and they fall. For the consumer at the other end, too, it’s more stable, but for growers, you can achieve growth quicker,” Mr. Charsley said from the car he was crisscrossing Europe in.

Schooled in South Africa in engineering and biology, the Zimbabwean plans to expand production from his current brood supply of 40,000 that produce 60 million ova a year. He started two years ago and is already planning a new facility to supply Europe in the offseason for trout.

He said Dunkeld, in South Africa’s Dullstroom Highlands, already has its own specialty made ova-transport containers that keep eggs alive for at least 60 hours, although product generally reaches his European customers in less than 30 hours. “We guarantee 95 percent survival, but it’s normally 100 percent,” Charsley said, adding that he first mentioned his expansion plans for European deliveries at a Cape Town tradeshow earlier this year.

When we talked to him he was on his way to Bucharest from Brussels. Demand in Europe has been strong from Russia and Bulgaria, while Georgia, Iran and Turkey have helped ensure 95-percent of his production is exported.

There are, however, limitations: “We are looking into one of the flaws of our model because we shut down in October. Production is from April to September. But we exported this summer, and we’re getting outstanding results and feedback from many, including U.K. buyers.”

Indeed, the ova are certified disease-free in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Asked if salmon producers are his rival his answer is, “Not really.”