Consistent quality and superb eating make them sought after by some of Melbourne’s best chefs, writes Richard Cornish.

Out in Wyndham in Melbourne’s west, water is drawn from deep underground to fill tanks in which delicious, sweet, plate-sized barramundi are raised.

What is it?
Produced by MainStream Aquaculture, Infinity Blue Barramundi are raised in water drawn from naturally heated geothermal springs from below the facility near Werribee. The water is clean, free from pollutants and at the perfect temperature for tropical fish to thrive. The fish are bred and spawned at the onsite hatchery – the world’s largest – and are the result of a decade-and-a-half-long breeding programme that has yielded fitter fish with bigger fillets. The fish are fed on a sustainable blend of vegetable by-products from the food industry and a small percentage of wild-caught fish. They are grown out to 500g to 1kg and humanely stunned in an ice brine before slaughter. The fish are gilled, gutted and scaled before packing.

Who’s producing it?
Dr Paul Harrison was a marine biologist who had a real interest in business. “In my studies, I was interacting with the aquaculture industry and I thought there must be better ways of doing this,” says Dr Harrison. “All I needed was a source of water close to a large market.” In 1999 he joined forces with his brother, who works in investments, and two others. Between them they had the skill set to start and build the business. They hired a hydrologist who found their water, half an hour west of the city. By 2004 the first fish was sold. “Our business produces a lot of food on a very small footprint and using very little water.

Where is it?
The state-of-the-art facility is located in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Werribee. It’s also home to the world’s largest warm-water recirculatory aquaculture system (RAS). This sees water from the tanks run through banks of bacteria-filled filters that naturally break down the organic waste in the water. The facility also collects waste from processing, which is turned into natural organic fertiliser.

Why it’s different?
Barramundi are tropical fish. Most fresh barramundi come from farms up north or are wild caught in waters off northern Australia. Frozen barramundi can come from farms across Asia and even as far as the Red Sea. Infinity Blue Barramundi, however, are grown 30 kilometres from Melbourne and can be harvested, processed, and on the plate within 24 hours.

Who’s a fan?
Farmer’s Daughter’s Alejandro Saravia loves the “delicate, clean flavour, firm texture and nice crisp skin” of the fish. “I can offer guests a fresh, locally grown, plate-sized barramundi on a daily basis,” he says. “They develop a beautiful layer of sweet fat that keeps the flesh so juicy; they’re consistently high quality.” He trims the fish of its head and tail and cooks it whole, either baked or grilled, with just a little salt and pepper and some aromatic herbs in the cavity, sometimes with a salt crust. “The flavour is so delicate, so you don’t want to overpower it,” he adds.

“Everybody loves barramundi,” says Rosa Mitchell from Rosa’s Canteen, “and we love Infinity Blue because of its sustainability credentials.” She makes barramundi cotoletta by slicing, crumbing and frying the fish. She serves it with a simple salad of cucumber, tomato and finely sliced onion dressed with a little salt, olive oil and dried oregano. “The fish fries up so beautifully and doesn’t shrink or curl,” she adds.

Where can I get it?
The farm gate at 73-79 Lock Road, Werribee is open 9am-5pm Tuesday and Thursday. The barramundi are sold at Fish Pier Fishmongers’ 17 Melbourne stores and at selected fishmongers at the Queen Victoria, Prahran, South Melbourne, Footscray, Dandenong and Preston markets.