The warm waters of northern Australia, which are ideal for barramundi, are set to be artificially replicated in the shadow of a paper mill in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.
- Heat from the Maryvale Mill will be used to grow barramundi at an indoor farm
- It’s hoped the facility will reduce Australia’s reliance on imported fish
- The proponents are expecting construction to start early in 2023
Opal Australian Paper and its project partner, Mainstream Aquaculture, have received a $30 million federal government grant to progress plans for a $125 million indoor barramundi farm.
The project plans to use excess heat from the Maryvale Mill near Morwell to warm water to about 30 degrees Celsius for the barramundi to grow in.
Opal aquaculture project lead Craig Bosch said the company hoped to begin construction, pending approvals, early next year.
“We currently run a lot of cooling towers to cool water from our turbines, so rather than running those cooling towers we’ll just put in a number of heat exchangers and we’ll transfer that across to heat the freshwater coming in for the fish,” Mr Bosch said.
Replacing imported fish
It is not the first time barramundi has been grown in Gippsland, but this time the fish will not be accessible to the average angler.
The 3,700 tonnes of barramundi grown at the farm each year is destined for the local market to replace imported white flesh fish.
“With the supply chain disruptions caused throughout COVID, it’s highlighted the immediate need to ramp up domestic production of white flesh fish to replace the 100,000 tonnes a year that’s currently imported,” Mr Bosch said.
The Maryvale site will have the capacity to scale up to 11,000 tonnes.
Two grants in two weeks
Voices of the Valley president Wendy Farmer has questioned why the federal government has given nearly $80 million in grants to projects at the site in less than two weeks.
The $30 million announced this week comes hot on the heels of a $48 million grant for an energy from waste project.
“It just seems surprising that one [company] has received all this money when there are so many others in Latrobe Valley that are needing support to go further,” Ms Farmer said.
Gippsland MP Darren Chester said there was often criticism when large sums of money were given to the private sector but the mill was one of the region’s biggest private employers.
“There’s always a risk when you have state or federal governments supporting the private sector, people will say the project would have happened anyway,” Mr Chester said.
“But what we find is that sometimes this investment of public funds to create jobs in the economy and diversify the regional economy helps to bring forward investments that may have occurred at some later point in time.”
Mr Chester said the commitment was “fully funded and has been provided to the Department of Finance as part of the budget process”.
He said the funding may depend on which party formed the next federal government.