Seafarms fast-tracks Exmouth prawn farm
A major Perth aquaculture company is fast-tracking the transformation of a former barramundi farm in Exmouth into a prawn quarantine centre to support what could become Australia’s biggest prawn farm in the Northern Territory.
Seafarms bought Marine Farms’ barramundi farming operation in Exmouth in 2013 to redevelop for its $1.5 billion Project Sea Dragon program at Legune Station in the NT.
The move to develop the Exmouth facility came about after the company confirmed two weeks ago it had finalised a much-anticipated $10 million in capital.
Seafarms managing director Chris Mitchell said the Exmouth site would become a “quarantine or founder stock centre” for prawns harvested from the wild.
“The advantage of Exmouth was it was already licensed as an aquaculture centre,” he said.
“It is very remote from the other facilities which is all about biosecurity, you are bringing animals in that haven’t been quarantined or screened so it just makes a lot of sense (to do so).”
“We are just trying to ramp up the renovations at Exmouth, the place has been in mothballs for a period of time, and needs to be renovated effectively because it had some cyclone damage and has work to be done on it.”
Funds from Seafarms’ first official capital raising will be channelled into the Exmouth facility to make sure the project is “investor-ready” by the end of the year. Mr Mitchell said the company was keen to “fast-track the project” as much as possible and “bring forward” early capital works programs, including the Exmouth facility.
At full scale, Project Sea Dragon will create upwards of 1500 jobs, including 670 at Legune Station, 580 in Kununurra and 300 at a Darwin-based hatchery.
Mr Mitchell said there would be some local jobs on offer at the Exmouth facility, though fewer than at most of its other locations.
“In terms of benefits for the local community, there is a small number of jobs there but again it is really that the facility, rather than being unused, will have an active economic life,” he said.
At full capacity Project Sea Dragon would have 10,000ha of saltwater grow-out ponds stretch across the floodplains of the Victoria and Keep Rivers near the WA-NT border.
Prawns would be processed at a new processing plant to be built in Kununurra and exported to Asian markets from either Wyndham or Darwin.
Seafarms is developing an Exmouth barramundi farm into a prawn quarantine centre, thanks to a funding boost.