HUON Aquaculture is planning an Australian-first, $30 million facility at Whale Point near Port Huon that is being seen as a first step towards land-based fish farming.
The proposed salmon nursery would create 200 jobs during construction and a further 30 ongoing full-time positions across the business, including 10 at the hatchery.
The company will start a round of community consultation with an information session about the plans at the Kermandie Hotel on Monday.
The proposal comes at a controversial time for the industry with community concern about allegations of environmental problems in Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast and plans by salmon rival Tassal for a fish farm at Okehampton Bay on the East Coast.
Huon Aquaculture chief executive and co-founder Peter Bender outlined the company’s vision in a presentation to investors called “Creating value in volatile markets” which was released to the Australian Securities Exchange.
Huon Aquaculture’s Peter Bender. Picture: LUKE BOWDEN
“We have been watching the development of land-based technologies for some time and we are preparing to take our first step toward it with a new ‘salmon-nursery’,’’ Mr Bender said.
He said the plan was to grow young salmon (smolt) on land to much larger sizes before they were transferred to sea pens.
The facility would result in the transfer of young salmon weighing 500-600g by 2019 compared with the present average weight of 200g.
“The benefit of a salmon nursery is that we get to research the fish as they grow and see how they perform in land-based growing facilities,” Mr Bender said.
“These types of facilities are not currently commercially viable to grow fish all the way to harvest at around 5kg.
“But through this research and keeping a very close eye on technological advances globally we are keen to be at the forefront of developing the technology locally.
“It also means that the time the fish are at sea is reduced which will further improve the company’s environmental performance through longer fallowing and improved biosecurity.”
He said the proposed new facility was still in a concept stage.
“During the construction stage local companies will be used wherever possible and employees will be sought from the local communities,” Mr Bender said.
“We are keen to have community input into every step of the development process so that we can include the community’s views in our design and decision-making.
“Interested neighbours and community members are invited to attend an information session about the proposed salmon nursery at the Kermandie Hotel on Monday at 6pm to see early stage concept plans and discuss the project.”