31/05/2005 - 22:00

$1.4m development could revolutionise aquaculture

31/05/2005 - 22:00

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Home-grown technology developed by private Perth company McRobert Aquaculture Systems has been promoted as having the potential to “revolutionise” the global aquaculture industry.

$1.4m development could revolutionise aquaculture

Home-grown technology developed by private Perth company McRobert Aquaculture Systems has been promoted as having the potential to “revolutionise” the global aquaculture industry.

McRobert’s ‘semi intensive floating tank system’ (SIFTS) is designed to grow fish in commercial quantities at relatively low cost in small bodies of water, such as lakes or dams.

A $1.4 million, three-year demonstration project in Northam is designed to prove the commercial potential of the technology and assess its capacity to scale up for larger bodies of water.

If successful, the technology offers a realistic commercial use for the many saline waterways in WA’s wheatbelt.

The SIFTS system features specially-designed floating tanks that sit in the water and a waste extraction process that prevents about 90 per cent of the solid wastes from the fish from entering the water.

It combines the positive attributes of both pond farms and land-based tank farms.

In particular, it takes advantage of existing water bodies and its operating costs are much lower than for intensive recirculating aquaculture systems.

It also provides for full control over the fish stock, with an automated fish handling system that reduces stress on the fish.

The ability of SIFTS to remove solid waste improves water quality, and hence growing conditions for the fish, but also avoids pollution of the seafloor, which is considered one of the major drawbacks to seacage aquaculture.

The SIFTS system has been developed by Ian McRobert’s private company in conjunction with the aquaculture development unit at Challenger TAFE.

Challenger project manager Greg Jenkins said the first harvest of fish using the SIFTS technology resulted in outstanding growth rates at low production costs.

Farmers using traditional aquaculture techniques to grow rainbow trout in saline water have produced yields of less than one tonne per hectare, which is not considered commercially viable for a stand-alone enterprise.

In contrast, trials using the SIFTS technology produced an equivalent of 18 tonnes/ha for a cost of less than $5 per kilogram.

Mr Jenkins said the innovative SIFTS technology offers to transform a low-intensity, cottage industry into a commercial one.

He also believed the technology could overcome some of the constraints on growth of the aquaculture industry, such as scarce coastal sites and visual and environmental concerns by coastal communities.

The site for the $1.4 million demonstration project is Springfield Waters Aquaculture in Northam, which is partly leased to C.Y. O’Connor College of TAFE.

Funding and in-kind support for the project is coming from multiple sources, including the Federal Government, the two TAFE colleges, Murdoch University, the Wheatbelt Development Corporation and the private owner of Springfield Waters, Stan Malinowski.

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