On the far north coast of Australia’s Northern Territory, on the border with Western Australia, lays an expanse of clay flats that doesn’t look like much at the moment. Yet this is the location of Project Sea Dragon, a $2 billion prawn farm dream from Seafarms Group, the Australian reports.
Prawn species are crustaceans similar to shrimp but typically larger and classified as freshwater when it comes to farming. Prawn aquaculture has been practiced in the Pacific for decades, from southeast Asia to island nations, and Australia.
At first, the vision of the world’s largest black tiger prawn farm seemed unlikely to meet fruition. But slowly the environmental approvals, agreements with indigenous landholders, and investment groups began to arrive. The NT and WA governments have committed to build a year-round road into the region and buyers are lining up to get a piece of this massive market.
Project Sea Dragon should be completed by 2025 and will produce 150,000 tons of black tiger prawns annually valued at $1.7 billion, exported to high-end consumers in China, Japan, and Europe. Prawn breeding will take place at a center in Exmouth, WA, hatched at the hatchery near Darwin, and grown out over six months in ponds on the clay flats north of Kununurra. The company also plans to build a $200 million prawn processing plant, which will employ over 200 locals, and hopes the federal government will assist in developing the small Wyndham port through which they can export frozen prawns to Asia.
While there are several more details to achieve – building 120 ponds that are 10ha each and producing thousands of tons of prawn each year will require over 200 workers and therefore also the construction of a village – each step in the business model has been addressed and Seafarms next plans to finalize their financial structure.
The project has been well received due to the potential for creating jobs and high-value goods. The appropriate environmental assessments have approved the project and ponds will be built on land instead of pens in open water. Project Sea Dragon appears to be another example of aquaculture helping to meet the enormous demand for seafood in a sustainable manner.