The aquaculture and fisheries industries are both attracting investor interest as businesses float significant growth plans.
Lobster, prawns and abalone are on the menu for local seafood and aquaculture operators pursuing expansion plans and taking their businesses to the financial marketplace.
Among those making moves is aquaculture business Ocean Grown Abalone, which has put a September date on its proposed ASX listing.
Ocean Grown installs concrete habitats, or Abitats, underwater to grow and then harvest greenlip abalone, which sell for about $50 per kilogram (see Photo Essay, pages 32-33).
Owner Brad Adams hopes the initial public offering of the Augusta-based aquaculture business will raise $10 million to fund a doubling of abalone production.
That will upgrade the company’s processing facilities and fund the addition of a cellar door as part of a new tourist attraction, while Abitat installations will continue at Augusta and in Esperance.
About 5,000 Abitats are being installed through the process, with completion expected by the end of 2018.
Mr Adams said research and development investments were also under way.
“The level of excitement around has been fantastic, and (so has) the response,” Mr Adams said.
“To have our original investors from day one continue investing, even right up to now, is fantastic.”
Some of those investors were friends, family and Augusta locals, but Mr Adams said institutions such as Acorn Capital and some high-net-worth investors had come on to the books recently.
The company, which secured $6 million in a recent capital raising, is being advised by View Street Partners.
Mr Adams, whose family has been involved in the industry for many years, said he’d never seen an appetite for the product as strong as it was at the moment.
“It’s driven by demand globally,” he said.
“In the wild, you’ve got a stable or diminishing resource in most fishing industries and you’ve got an increasingly affluent population demanding high-quality protein, and aquaculture needs to fill that void.”
Also planning further investment is the Geraldton Fisherman’s Co-operative.
The Geraldton operation wants to build an 80-tonnes live lobster-holding facility at Welshpool, near the airport, in order to have better access to the Chinese market.
The state government has provided funding for the new facility, in January offering a $3.5 million loan through a scheme designed to help finance cooperatives.
It will be the largest such holding facility in Australia.
Similarly, a warehousing facility with holding tanks has been built on the Chinese end of the supply chain.
Another recent undertaking in the sector was the launching by South African business Sea Harvest of a partial takeover of ASX-listed fishing and foods player Marreterram, in April 2016.
Sea Harvest emerged as a substantial shareholder in December 2015, according to ASX documents, with a 19.9 per cent stake.
The company now has a 55.9 per cent slice of South Fremantle-based Marreterram.
Meanwhile, ASX-listed Seafarms Group, which was formerly known as Commodities Group, recently received a recommendation for environmental approval from the Northern Territory Environmental Protection Authority for part of its Sea Dragon project.
The Perth-based business is hoping to build 1,120 hectares of land-based production ponds 110 kilometres north-east of Kununurra to grow about 14,000t of prawns per year.
Latter stages would be even more substantial, with the company forecasting it would be producing about 100,000t of black tiger prawns at full scale.
In November last year, Seafarms appointed former federal trade minister Andrew Robb as a strategic adviser.