8 February 2022

Duncan Norris swimming to new teaching ideas with fish farm

| Tom McGann
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Duncan Norris with fish farm

Duncan Norris with his fish farm. Photo: Tom McGann.

When he’s not busy teaching chemistry or earth science at Moruya High School, Duncan Norris loves exploring new ideas and expanding his knowledge in all sorts of areas and recently, he has found the best of both worlds – creating a fish farm at the school.

The barramundi farm idea came from Mr Norris as he wanted new ways for students to learn, ranging from new forms of agricultural practice and eventually food technology, as well as teach himself something new.

“I love learning new things and it doesn’t seem like much, but it is honestly used by so many students and departments,” he said.

“Earth and environment students, biology, junior science and agriculture – so many students can utilise it.”

The 10,000-litre tank is used to raise barramundi which can then be used to teach students about biology, farming and fish production.

The tank is situated in a shed in the agriculture plot on the school and is being maintained professionally with cleaning and temperature systems.

Water temperature is kept at 25 degrees constantly, with the tank being pumped with oxygen and filtering keeping the water quality correct for the fish.

Mr Norris has also installed a backup generator to make sure the system can be maintained and keep running during blackouts.

“I do a lot of maintaining, coming down twice a day on holidays, weekends and so on, but the kids at school who get involved all know how to run the system and maintain it – everyone really likes getting involved.”

It is important the tank and shed are maintained as animal welfare in the agricultural plot of the school is monitored regularly.

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This was also an opportunity for Mr Norris to teach himself something new as he had never done anything like this before.

Mr Norris says he had massive help from the companies that supplied the water quality systems.

“I could call them at any hour of the day with questions and they would be more than happy to help,” he said.

“The whole industry is extremely willing to help and teach.”

There are around 20 barramundi in the tank and Mr Norris stressed the importance of maintaining the growth of the fish, ensuring they all remain around the same size.

“Cannibalism is a massive problem with barramundi,” he said.

“If one gets far bigger than another, it will eat the smaller fish and trust me, it will leave absolutely nothing behind.”

Like any form of farming, Mr Norris says these are challenges that he and the students have had to deal with but it is also a learning opportunity for him and the kids.

“There is a 10 per cent mortality rate with fish farms,” he said.

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Students share Mr Norris’s enthusiasm for the farm with many getting involved where and when they can.

Year 11 student Monty Slack says it has been a great learning experience.

“I understand a lot more about fish farming now,” she said.

“I think it’s really great.”

Year 10 student Kailee Matthewson agrees, adding that it is also fun.

“It’s fun because we get to do practical work regularly and it’s engaging. It’s nice to do real-world experiences in school.”

The current tank holds 10,000 litres of water and has been in place for a year, however expansion will be happening soon, with new tanks being added to the shed.

It is all part of the grand scheme for Mr Norris with four tanks in total by the end of the year allowing for more opportunities.

“The hope for me is to start selling fish to local businesses which we will be able to do by the end of the year,” he said.

“Once we have the four tank setup complete, we will be able to order in around 200 fish per month.”

Mr Norris has already had interest from local businesses, ranging from cafes and restaurants in Bodalla, Moruya and Broulee.

The final goal for Mr Norris is to break even, while also having new learning opportunities for the students.

“As soon as we have the right permits, the four tanks and the constant flow of fish, we will be able to teach kids the business side of things in terms of producing a product and selling it to local businesses and our food technology department will be able to use the fish, teaching kids how to cook with the freshest fish possible.”

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Anne-Marie Johnstone10:14 am 11 Feb 22

Well done! The way of the future. Book learning suits some but many others learn by ‘doing’. It is great that this is being recognised!
Congratulations to all involved

Great to hear about the fish farm! Great to hear how Mr Norris had the courage & conviction to have a go and establish the fish farm!

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