Food bowl

Ag, aqua­cul­ture projects press on

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

Years of talk about — and in­vest­ment in — eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion in the Pil­bara is be­gin­ning to bear fruit as two sus­tain­able new in­dus­tries inch closer to be­com­ing re­al­ity.

Land has been ear­marked for the Sa­hara For­est Project desert food­bowl scheme near Kar­ratha Air­port, ahead of com­ple­tion of a fea­si­bil­ity study in Fe­bru­ary.

Sa­hara For­est Project chief ex­ec­u­tive Joakim Hauge said iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of land for the trial was promis­ing.

“We are very grate­ful for the pos­i­tive, can-do at­ti­tude we meet in the lo­cal com­mu­nity and the re­gion,” he said. “As our stud­ies progress, we are con­vinced that the Pil­bara has a great op­por­tu­nity to take part in and ben­e­fit from green growth op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Yara Pil­bara gen­eral man­ager Chris Ri­jk­sen said he was con­fi­dent the project would make a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to the re­gion.

“The City of Kar­ratha’s re­cent de­ci­sion to of­fer in-prin­ci­ple sup­port for es­tab­lish­ing Sa­hara For­est Project and other in­no­va­tive projects near the Kar­ratha Air­port is the lat­est step for­ward for this ex­cit­ing project,” he said.

Also mov­ing for­ward is the Max­ima Pear­ling Com­pany and Mu­ru­juga Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion-led ed­i­ble oys­ter pi­lot project off the Dampier Ar­chi­pel­ago.

Pil­bara De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion chief ex­ec­u­tive Terry Hill said the re­search and de­vel­op­ment trial was set to get un­der way in Fly­ing Foam Pas­sage by the end of the year.

“Rock oys­ters al­ready grow naturally in abun­dance on the Pil­bara coast, and stud­ies have shown the Pil­bara’s en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions, freight net­works and ex­ten­sive coast­line make it well suited to rock oys­ter farm­ing,” he said.

“This is the next step to­wards de­vel­op­ing a com­mer­cial oys­ter in­dus­try by fill­ing the knowl­edge gap that cur­rently ex­ists about how well oys­ters grow in a con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment.”

Max­ima Group manag­ing di­rec­tor John Hut­ton said the po­ten­tial for a rock oys­ter in­dus­try in the Pil­bara was “enor­mous”.

“Last year Max­ima par­tic­i­pated in a panel dis­cus­sion at the (New Pil­bara) con­fer­ence to pro­mote the po­ten­tial op­por­tu­nity for oys­ter farm­ing in the re­gion, so it’s great to be tak­ing the stage again this year and be talking about a project that’s now un­der way,” he said.

A re­port from the trial will be used to pro­mote the es­tab­lish­ment of an aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try in the re­gion by at­tract­ing pri­vate in­vestors and com­mer­cial op­er­a­tors.

Pic­ture: Sa­hara For­est Project

An artist's im­pres­sion of a large-scale arid desert project sim­i­lar to that en­vis­aged by Sa­hara For­est Project near Kar­ratha Air­port.

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