The Burdekin Shire will be home to a major new aquaculture facility, the first of its kind in Australia.
Covering 20 hectares of former grazing land near Ayr, the state-of-the-art facility will produce a high value specialised algae.
Developer MBD says its large-scale cultivation of the microalgae, Haematococcus pluvialis, will enable extraction of a valuable product, Astaxanthin, widely used as a natural red colourant in food such as farmed salmon and prawns and as a prized dietary supplement. It is renowned for its antioxidant properties.
Earthworks on the project’s $7m first stage began this week, with Burdekin Shire Mayor Lyn McLaughlin turning the first sod of soil on the site.
MBD managing director Andrew Lawson said commencement of construction brought to fruition many years of intensive research and development undertaken by MBD in partnership with their team at James Cook University in Townsville and marked the dawn of a new hi-tech era in Australian aquaculture.
In stage one, the facility will produce 25 tonnes per year, however, subsequent stages are planned to see output quadruple to around 100 tonnes each year.
“This initial facility will cost about $7m to build and will employ up to 50 local contractors during construction, creating up to 20 full time positions when fully operational before the end of the year,” Mr Lawson said.
“The cultivation and production facility involves construction of 18 high rate algal pond (HRAP) raceways up to 200 metres in length, sophisticated laboratory facilities for cultivation, primary and secondary scale-up facilities and specialised equipment for processing and packaging the product, which is destined for overseas export.
“MBD has a decade long R&D connection with the greater Townsville Region.
“We’re delighted to be putting down strong roots in Burdekin that will result in increased jobs and prosperity, with several million dollars injected into the local economy each year and the potential to achieve significant export earnings.
“We are proud to see the new production and manufacturing facility taking form and look forward to delivering the first commercial production of Astaxanthin in Australia bringing an exciting new form of aquaculture to the Burdekin.”