The Latrobe Valley could become home to about 2.5 million barramundi a year raised in an indoor aquaculture facility next to the Maryvale paper mill.
Australian Paper has entered into a partnership with fish farmers Mainstream Aquaculture for a $1.24 million feasibility study into the proposed barramundi farm.
The Victorian government is contributing $800,000 towards the study to examine the potential for 10,000 tonne of barramundi a year to be grown in a re-circulating aquaculture system.
The study should be finished mid next year and, if it proves viable, construction could start by the end of 2020.
It is expected the fish farm could provide about 500 jobs in the construction phase and almost 190 direct and indirect ongoing jobs.
Australian Paper corporate development general manager David Jettner said all aspects of the $150 million development would be thoroughly investigated before it moved into the next phase.
“This is a substantial investment and we need to be very diligent in the feasibility stage. We need to understand the technical, commercial, environmental and social aspects in the study,” Mr Jettner said.
“Mainstream Aquaculture has robust technology, particularly around filtration and clean-up of the water stream. This is an important factor for us and this will be assessed in the study.”
Mainstream Aquaculture is based in Wyndham and operates the largest aquaculture facility of its type in the world, exporting premium barramundi into 24 countries.
Mr Jettner said the fish would be grown in large indoor tanks fed from extra capacity water and heat from energy transferred from the pulp mill
“Normally, you wouldn’t put aquaculture with a pulp mill but a lot of our infrastructure has spare capacity. Our wastewater treatment system and freshwater has spare capacity,” Mr Jettner said.
“At the moment, we have large volumes of hot water and we can transfer the energy from this to the barramundi farm.”
Mainstream Aquaculture managing director Boris Musa said they are committed to providing Australia with premium seafood, produced with leading technology and best practice sustainability.
“We welcome the next steps in our relationship with Australian Paper who share our values around the development of sustainable and socially responsible enterprise and look forward to making our concept for the largest single site barramundi farm in the world a reality,” Mr Musa said.
Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing said the partnership was a great example of looking at innovative ways to maximise existing Latrobe Valley infrastructure, helping to attract new industries and employers to the region.