09/02/2015 - 16:37

Aquaculture tide rising in WA

09/02/2015 - 16:37

Bookmark

Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

Western Australian businesses are being drawn to the long-term growth opportunities offered by the aquaculture sector as increasing demand from Asia drives investment.

Aquaculture tide rising in WA
SERVED UP: Seafarms also operates the Crystal Bay Prawns brand.

Western Australian businesses are being drawn to the long-term growth opportunities offered by the aquaculture sector as increasing demand from Asia drives investment.

Seafarms Group managing director Robert Bell said the expanding middle class to Australia’s north was driving demand for protein, and the region had a cultural preference for seafood.

“Half of the world’s seafood currently comes from aquaculture,” Mr Bell told Business News.

“But given the demand profile, a much greater percentage is going to have to come from aquaculture, as our traditional wild fisheries … are in decline.”

That could drive expansion of the industry in Australia from less than a $1 billion annually to about $13 billion by 2020, he said.

“Last year, the volume of farmed fish protein eclipsed the production of farmed beef, globally … so aquaculture is actually the fastest-growing protein sector in the world,” Mr Bell said.

Backed by Ian Trahar-chaired Commodities Group, Seafarms was known as Western Australian Resources. It is planning to develop a 10,000-hectare prawn farm north-east of Kununurra, just beyond the border in the Northern Territory.

Mr Bell said it was an attempt to industrialise and build scale in what was otherwise an industry with small local operators locally.

He said a range of technology the company was developing could reduce feed costs, while the large scale of the facility could cut power and labour costs.

Seafarms already owns Australia’s biggest prawn farm – a 200ha facility in Queensland scheduled to produce 1,500 tonnes this year – and Mr Bell estimated there were just 500 to 600ha of prawn farms nationally at the moment.

The ambitious northern project follows the declaration of the state’s first aquaculture development zone at Cone Bay in the Kimberley.

Firms will be able to operate in the area with environmental approvals already in place. Marine Produce Australia is the zone’s initial occupant, having reportedly invested $50 million in a barramundi project with target production of 7,000t per annum.

On the state’s south coast, Ocean Grown Abalone has launched a $5.6 million convertible note issue to fund its project, which Business News reported in December would produce up to 100t of the delicacy annually.

Department of Fisheries aquaculture manager Steve Nel said aquaculture had good capacity for growth, particularly in high-value species such as finfish and abalone.

He said access to high-quality sea water (tropical and temperate), a high level of scientific and technical expertise, sophisticated engineering, infrastructure and support services and the state’s investment environment all contributed to giving WA a competitive advantage in the sector.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options