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Revolutionising Biosecurity in Australia’s Prawn Industry with eDNA Technology

Revolutionising Biosecurity in Australia's Prawn Industry with eDNA Technology
Image courtesy of jcu.edu.au

Innovative Early Warning System

Australia’s $220 million prawn farming industry is set to benefit from an innovative environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling method that promises to revolutionise biosecurity practices.

This ground-breaking project by James Cook University (JCU) researchers aims to slash biosecurity costs and protect prawn farms from potentially devastating viral outbreaks.

Efficient and Cost-Effective Testing

Led by Dr Kelly Condon of JCU’s AquaPATH lab, the two-year study funded by Food Agility CRC will be conducted at Australian Prawn Farms and Seafarms in north Queensland.

By using eDNA samples from pond water, researchers can detect viruses causing growth deformities and mass mortality in tiger and banana prawns before they cause widespread damage.

Dr Condon highlights the advantages: “It’s significantly less expensive and quicker for a farmer to use eDNA samples.” The eDNA method is estimated to save $484 per pond in pathogen surveillance, making it a cost-effective alternative to traditional tissue sampling.

Enhanced Biosecurity and Insights

eDNA sampling not only offers early detection of pathogens but also allows for a more comprehensive understanding of pond conditions that prevent disease outbreaks.

“We can get a much more comprehensive picture of how pathogens are getting into the farm,” Dr Condon explains. This method enables weekly monitoring, providing insights into why some ponds experience outbreaks while others do not.

Future Implications for Farming

The success of this project could make eDNA sampling an essential aspect of biosecurity in prawn farming.

Dr Condon notes that the technique, which has already shown promise in a pilot study, could make biosecurity more economically viable and help scientists develop practices to reduce disease risks.

By adopting this innovative approach, the Australian prawn industry can safeguard its future and maintain its economic stability.