[Australia] The team behind a new aquaculture venture in Western Australia’s Pilbara region is harvesting its first test crop of algae for the natural medicine market.
Plankton Farms, on the outskirts of Karratha, plans to grow 30 tonnes of algae annually in salt water ponds.
Once harvested, the algae will be dried and processed into a health supplement, as a powder or tablet.
Director Ian Tracton said the farm was growing an Australian species of microalgae known as Dunaliella salina.
Mr Tracton, who founded the Sydney-based company InterClinical Laboratories, said the market for alternative medicines was growing, globally.
As well as targeting local consumers, he plans to investigate exporting to overseas markets, including the United States, Europe and Asia.
“The natural medicine market is quite sophisticated and people are looking for quality products that deliver,” Mr Tracton said.
“We’d argue this particular species of micro-algae is the world’s richest source of beta carotene and mixed carotenoids.
“They are the vitamins that turn your carrots orange, your squashes yellow and your tomatoes red.
“They are very, very rich in antioxidants and are important for health and vitality, so this is something we feel will grow into the future.”
With the company’s first commercial harvest planned for mid-2016, the team is currently testing its infrastructure systems.
“We have got growth happening in our micro ponds and we are doing some test farming and harvesting at the moment,” Ian Tracton said.
“We want to fine tune the system, so we can maximise our yields when we move towards using the larger raceway ponds on the site.”
“We have a lot of sunshine and we’re looking for things that will be around for the long term.
“For our population, we have only half the number of small businesses that somewhere like Esperance or Bunbury has.
“Over the years, we’ve been heavily skewed towards the resources and construction industries, so we need to build small business up.”
Mr Lally said aquaculture, in particular, was a growth industry the Pilbara region is well suited for.
“We have very good waters and tidal flows here, with the islands,” Mr Lally said.
“We have an ideal set-up [for aquaculture] and there’s a major airport for exports as well.”
Ian Tracton said his preference would be to employ Pilbara locals, as work ramps up at Plankton Farms.
“We’re really not into the fly-in-fly-out type of lifestyle,” Mr Tracton said.
“We want to be able to employ local people and support the local contractors and community.
“We are very different from the mining and resources companies because what we are doing is renewable.
“We can grow algae every time we have sunshine.”
Photo: Plankton Farms director Ian Tracton inspects algae ponds on the outskirts of Karratha
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