Road to recovery for Yarra Valley Caviar
One year after Black Saturday devastation
One year after having large amounts of its fish stock wiped out in the Black Saturday fires, and having to completely reposition its business, boutique aquaculture farm Yarra Valley Caviar is now on the road to recovery.
The fresh water aquaculture farm at the foot of the Victorian Alps on the Rubicon River was one of the many properties in the region hit by the fires - losing more than 13 tonne of Atlantic Salmon. Yarra Valley Caviar general manager Mark Fox says it isn't a day he likes to remember.
The night of the fires, with his wife in the city, unable to make it back to the farm, Mark was held up in his car with his three children, all under the age of 12. "They were petrified; we were sitting in the car with the air conditioning on because it was the only cool place to be, in between the fish ponds, listening to the radio to hear direction of where the fires were headed."
He says unbeknown to him, and the radio reports at the time, the fires were actually heading right over to his farm. "We couldn't see 40 metres ahead of us, so we wouldn't have known if the fires were one kilometre or 10 kilometres away."
After a sleepless night, he finally got the children out the following day and spent the next two arduous weeks removing the 13.5 tonnes of fish which had died from the heat and ash.
Predicting it would be May 2011 before the fish stocks were back to the levels they were before Black Saturday, the small Victorian producer turned to caviar as its mainstay. It's a move which has proved incredibly successful.
Late in 2009 Yarra Valley Caviar's Atlantic Salmon caviar made a debut into the Sydney deli market, with the product practically walking off the shelves. In a market where you're normally lucky to shift 20 jars a week, Yarra Valley Caviar is selling more than six times that, and it's also finding itself increasingly popular in top restaurants and venues around the country.
Mark says "it's humbling" and he believes the reason Yarra Valley Caviar has proved so popular is due to the fact that they take a completely natural approach to rearing, and milking the Atlantic Salmon - refusing to use any antibiotics or chemicals and giving the fish plenty of space so they aren't stressed. He says these conditions, and the treatment of the fish, reflects in the quality of the caviar.
In the months ahead, Mark's goal is to continue with its sustainable practices and make moves to become completely organic. "We are well on our way to becoming officially organic certified. We're already following all the European organic guidelines, and so this is our focus in coming months."
- Yarra Valley (Wine) (VIC)
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