Ready the cocktail sauce: mega prawn farm gets go ahead for shrimp nursery
Australia’s biggest producer of farmed prawns is set to become even bigger.
Seafarms (ASX:SFG) this week got the tick of approval for its Sea Dragon shrimp project in the Northern Territory.
Known for its operation of premium Crystal Bay prawns, the shrimp producer is developing a large-scale land-based project which aims to produce reliable volumes all year round, with potential to net the company in excess of $3 billion in export revenue.
On Monday Seafarms was granted an aquaculture licence for its breeding and maturation centre near Darwin, where top quality prawns will roost before they move to the grow-out facility in East Kimberly.
At full production Project Sea Dragon (PSD) will produce up to 150,000 tonnes a year of black tiger shrimp, in 10,000 hectares of production ponds.
The so-called mega prawn farm was given major project status from the Federal and Northern Territory governments in 2015, this latest approval the next significant step to production.
“The commercial aquaculture licence is one of several significant approval milestones that have been met over the past 24 months and demonstrates further progress in the project achieving its secondary approvals,” director Dr Chris Mitchell said.
“Project Sea Dragon has the potential to be a US$1.5 billion project earning in excess of A$3 billion in export revenue and we are pleased it has the full support of the Northern Territory Government.”
At their AGM last month Chairman Ian Trahar told shareholders the project was now “investment ready” and that 2018 would be the year of the Dragon.
“The level of engagement with potential investors, financiers, JV partners, product offtakers, processors and retail channels has significantly increased as Project Sea Dragon approaches Investment Ready Status. The number of unsolicited investor approaches has continued as the reality of PSD is becoming more commonly understood,” he said.
Seafarm’s share price was on the up on Monday, trading at 6.5c from lows of 5.7c in July after reporting a near $20 million loss.
Existing operations in Queensland reported revenues of $29.3 million for the past financial year, and they are hoping to will make for a springboard to push the company into industrial scale in the NT.
Last year they produced 1714 tonnes of tiger and banana prawns, and while the state’s south was gripped by an outbreak of white spot disease described as the ‘biggest biosecurity outbreak to hit Australia’s aquaculture industry, the tropics were largely untouched.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, prawns are the third largest seafood traded by value behind freshwater fish and crustaceans.