A research team from two WA TAFE’s and two industry partners have produced a technology called the SIFTS (Semi-intensive floating tank system) for seasonal production of trout and barramundi in the WA Wheatbelt. Susan Kirk reports
Open pond aquaculture in the State has not been viable due to low yields associated with harvesting issues and heavy competition from predatory birds. Farmed fish also suffered from water quality problems associated with high stocking densities and high protein feed which causes heavy algal blooms and stock losses.
In 2002 a research team from CY O’Connor and Challenger TAFE visited the USA to determine if the technology for aquaculture in saline waters would suit the Western Australian conditions. There was nothing suitable and in 2004 McRobert Aquaculture Systems and the TAFE’s developed a SIFTS prototype, eight of which are currently being evaluated at Springfield Waters Aquaculture in Northam.
The tanks resemble fully enclosed, floating igloos that eliminate all bird predators and use air-driven technology to recirculate water from the pond through the individual production units. The farming is seasonal, growing Trout in winter and Barramundi in summer. Harvesting is achieved by inflating flexible tank liners using low-pressure air and literally swimming the fish out of the SIFTS along with their water.
Dr Gavin Sarre, Research and Development Manager from CY O’Connor College of TAFE in Northam, said, “We have achieved a semi-commercial position from the research and have achieved yields in excess of 20 tonnes of fish per hectare of water per year.”
Six commercial scale units have recently been installed into Fremantle harbour to showcase the possible commercial application of aquaculture for Western Australia.
Funding for the Northam project has been provided by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, The Wheatbelt Development Commission, Springfield Waters Aquaculture and TAFEWA. This funding has been crucial in assisting these innovative researchers and entrepreneurs develop the project to the commercialisation stage and it is now a matter of industry adopting the technology.