How Leeuwin Coast Are Bringing WA’s Native Akoya To The World Stage
After being discovered growing off the coast of Albany just a decade ago, Western Australia’s native Akoya have since become a much welcomed and flavourful addition to Australian menus. And now with their recent introduction into the Asian market, sustainability champions Leeuwin Coast and Harvest Road are bringing the Akoya and the flavours of WA’s Great Southern region to the world.
“The [flavour] of the Akoya is incredibly unique and actually very hard to describe,” says Leeuwin Coast’s General Manager of Aquaculture Justin Welsh. “They have a similar sweetness to scallops with the saltiness and minerality of an oyster, as well as the richness of a mussel.”
Being filter feeders, Akoya take their nutrients from broken down materials suspended in the waters that flow over and through them, meaning that when you’re tasting the Akoya you are actually experiencing the topography and ecology of the West Australian coastline.
Welsh credits the Great Southern region’s combination of ‘pure, pristine water’ and ‘mineral balance’ for Leeuwin Coast’s successful cultivation of the native mollusc.
“Unlike oysters that mostly live in estuaries – where there is a lot of fresh water and nutrients – the Akoya thrive in cold, clean ocean waters, not unlike those on the West Australian Coast, particularly in the Southern Ocean.”
With the health of the ecosystem being a vital aspect to the farming and harvesting of Akoya, Leeuwin Coast has embraced the principles of sustainable aquaculture to preserve the health of not only their farms but also the vitality and biodiversity of the region as a whole.
“Our Akoya are farmed using innovative techniques that not only let us produce quality Akoya but also support the local ecosystems. The dropper lines we hang in the ocean for Akoya to grow on – which are similar to the way mussels are grown – create a habitat in the ocean, almost like a floating reef,” says Welsh.
“You get everything from crabs to shrimp that make the lines their home, and that provides shelter for fish. You virtually create a little hub of ecosystem activity, which is pretty amazing!”
The Leeuwin Coast team’s utilisation of sustainable aquacultural practices led to the team achieving net-zero certification in 2020, marking the WA Akoya as Australia’s very first carbon-neutral aquaculture product, noting that ‘sustainable aquaculture is the key to restoring our oceans to a flourishing state.’
“Our farm is designed around sustainable aquaculture, which is essentially a way to create thriving habitats, sequester carbon from the atmosphere, return balance to ecosystems and work towards a
better planet,” says Welsh.
“The gear we use and the practices we employ on the farms help us to protect and support vital ecosystems like the seagrass that grows deep below the Akoya farm.”
Akoya currently feature on menus across the state, country and soon internationally thanks to a recent launch event in Singapore, featuring world classes dishes curated by acclaimed chefs Matt Stone (You Beauty, Ciao Mate, The Eltham) and Ben Ing (Alberta’s Busselton).
“It’s incredible to see how creative and inventive chefs are with the product, serving it fried, raw, blanched, in emulsions, smoked and grilled – the options really are endless! I personally love it served barbecued with chutney, seriously good,” says Welsh.
“I think chefs are embracing [Akoya] because it allows them to offer something really unique for their guests. They can go beyond the usual choices of protein on their menus and really experiment with different techniques and flavours.”
To learn where you can get your hands on WA’s homegrown Akoya, check out the Leeuwin Coast website for a full list of eateries where they are currently available.
Image Credit: Sarah Hewer