Northern Australia’s warm waters make the Top End an ideal climate for growing farmed shrimp in a sustainable way. Commercial attempts to farm shrimp in the Northern Territory have been tried but haven’t been successful to date. Cyclones, rain, hungry birds, and the tyranny of distance make it a difficult area for shrimp farming businesses to establish and thrive.
CSIRO is taking another look at it, leading innovative new research in Darwin to help develop the industry. If successful it could lead to shrimp being grown all the way across the top of the country from the north of Western Australia to the top of north Queensland.
Project leader, Simon Irvin, said the first step was setting up a demonstration site in Darwin, and early results have now put hard numbers to what were previously understood challenges.
“Pond netting is the gold standard for protecting prawns from bird predation. Our tests have shown only 6% survival rates in ponds without netting, and 68% with netting,” Simon said.
Shrimp also love salty water, but the northern monsoon can deposit large amounts of rain, effectively turning salt water into freshwater in shrimp ponds. The team is looking at ways to guard against this, as well as stopping competition from wild shrimp that are abundant in the natural environment. Another key goal is also to reduce operating costs and improve sustainability by requiring less feed and other inputs. The project plans to grow shrimp in extensive farming systems.
Early results from the first season at the Darwin demonstration site have been promising, with a successful shrimp harvest despite the identified challenges the area presents. The next big step will be to apply the findings to a real world commercial shrimp farm.
The pilot farm will be located at Wurankuwu, Bathurst Island. Initially, the goal is to build six one-hectare ponds. This could lead to further expansion if the project demonstrates the viability of extensive shrimp farming in northern Australian waters. Additional shrimp farms could then be built around the concept in different locations across the Top End.