Salmon and Ginseng bio-farming a winning combination in Montana

Ben Pyka 41 degrees south 12 year yr old jar of ginseng

Salmon and Ginseng bio-farming a winning combination in Montana

APRIL 2015JOANNE EISEMANN

FROM THE ROAD you probably wouldn’t guess how productive the 35-acre, mostly bush block 41°South is, or just how many people visit the property each year.  Situated 3km along Montana Road from the Mole Creek Road, the farm produces Salmon and Ginseng.

German born owners, Ziggy and Angelika Pyka, began experimenting with growing Ginseng on their property in Westbury in 1995. Ginseng is a medicinal herb, reputed to be an immune system booster if you take it regularly.

Ginseng is a popular herb in Asia and the Pykas wanted to see if it could be grown in Tasmania. Not a crop for the fainthearted, it takes 6-8 years to reach maturity, and it took them 10 years to perfect the technique.

They bought the block at Montana in 1998 because they liked its waterfall. “The land itself was terrible; a willow infested swamp”, says son, Ben. “The river had turned into an arterial vein system”, he added. Ziggy had experience with freshwater fish farms, so the family decided that Salmon farming would complement their Ginseng operation. In 2003/4 they applied for a National Landcare and Resource Innovations grant, which they matched dollar for dollar by selling their property at Westbury to raise funds.

In 12 months they had built a unit, walks, shop/cafe, fish tanks and a wetland with boardwalks to create a growing family business.

These days they cultivate one acre of ginseng and grow f r e s h w a t e r Atlantic Salmon using water from Western Creek.

The wetland was made as a way of cleaning up the block while at the same time creating a biological filter for fish waste. Water comes in from above the waterfall and flows through a 400m pipe into the fish farm. Water soiled with fish waste flows into the wetland, the wetland plants and reeds use the nutrients from the fish waste to grow, then water is returned to the river as clean as when it left.

Atlantic Salmon, brought in as fingerlings are grown in concrete tanks where they are fed a standard fish pellet used by other salmon farms.

Growing times are comparable to salt water grown salmon and the flavor is also similar. Fish ready for harvesting are put in a purging tank containing clean water to counteract any ‘muddiness’ that can sometimes occur in fresh water fish.

Fresh water farms are fortunate in that fresh water diseases are easily counteracted by the addition of salt.

The farm is open to the public almost every day of the year. Over 20,000 people visited in 2014; the number grows each year. “We have people from every country in the world come here and visit us”, says Ben.

The farm has become popular with Asian visitors largely through social media; Ben estimates they make up 50% of guests.

Self-guided farm tours give visitors an opportunity to look over the farm, visit the waterfall and wetland as well as feed the fish.

Much of the farm’s power is generated sustainably through hydro and solar power.

Ben shares, “We also try and put emphasis on biofarming and homesteading; we grow veggies, keep chickens and ducks for eggs; we have our own orchard and aquaponic area”.

There is a small licensed café on site, where a light lunch can be enjoyed and farm produce purchased.

Salmon products on offer are all hot smoked and include either boneless or whole baby salmon, and rillette.

Ginseng products include spices, leatherwood honey, green and black tea, skin cream, and nougat.

In line with the sustainable nature of the property Ben advises, “We use, value add and sell everything we grow on site”.