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Rock lobster farming in Tasmania closer to commercial reality under new deal

ABC News logo ABC News 13/09/2017 By Stephen Pigram

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A deal between a private company and the University of Tasmania will see the development of what the group says will be the world's first commercial rock lobster hatchery.

It is claimed Tasmania will become the birthplace of a global industry for rock lobster aquaculture following the deal between the PFG Group and the university.

Researchers at Hobart's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) hope the move will commercialise their breakthrough research into the lobster's complex larval cycle.

Until now, the lobster's long and complex lifecycle has made it impossible to farm the species in a commercially scalable hatchery.

Researchers said the world's first commercial hatchery could reshape the lucrative industry.

PFG Group, a Tasmanian plastics and maritime equipment manufacturer, has invested in a university spin-off company giving it licensing rights to the research.

Scientists at the IMAS Taroona laboratories will spend the next two years finalising development of the hatchery process while the company builds a commercial-scale hatchery.

The company said it hoped the first commercial production of farmed rock lobsters would start by 2021.

IMAS scientists are credited with making the project a commercial reality. © Provided by ABC News IMAS scientists are credited with making the project a commercial reality. Long lead time to commercial reality

The university's deputy vice-chancellor for research, Professor Brigid Heywood, said the development had been more than 15 years in the making.

"For those who have not actually seen the facility working and seen science in action, it's unbelievably special," she said.

"It's a spectacular example, it's almost too exciting.

"The fact that we've been able to get to the point of real technology transfer, so that we're not just talking about it, we're not just anticipating it.

"We are creating a new world first, it can't be anything else but exciting."

Deal puts Tasmania 'on world stage'

Rock lobsters were farmed in Indonesia, but they were stocked by taking young lobsters from the sea.

Chief executive Michael Sylvester said it was an opportunity for a local Tasmanian manufacturer to develop world-class science and exploit that technology on the world stage.

"This ultimately leads to commercial hatcheries around the world and this leads to more Tasmanian jobs, and it leads to Tasmanian expertise being world-recognised," he said.

"We started out working with IMAS as a supplier of equipment and we grew that capability by bringing our aquaculture expertise into the hub and now we're a partner with the university."

Director of the research program, Associate Professor Greg Smith, said the IMAS team had taken work done on a laboratory bench to a commercial level.

"It's world-leading research," he said.

PFG Group chairman James Cretan said the sky was the limit for this kind of research.

"Someone's got to feed the world," he said.

"We sometimes underestimate as Tasmanians what we've got on your own backyard and the quality and the importance of this sort of applied science on a world scale.

"I think with recent developments in aquaculture we are now understanding the benefit of having a robust and sound science and unimpeachable science informing the growth of the industry."


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