Huon’s Freshwater Improvement Programme (FIP)
To continue to operate responsibly and remain at the forefront of our industry, we must always improve. This means that we must make substantial advances in our farming operations, to ensure we remain a sustainable industry, as well as a company that is focused on the safety of our employees, the welfare of our fish and the wildlife around our farms.
A strong example of Huon’s investment into the industry’s future is our Freshwater Improvement Programme (FIP).
While there is no empirical evidence of any environmental harm occurring downstream of our existing freshwater facilities attributable to site operations, in early 2019 Huon voluntarily implemented a FIP for all our hatcheries and nursery sites.
The FIP delivers uniformity of operational requirements across sites, but more importantly, places a cap on discharge limits and site biomass capacities, to reduce the potential for any adverse environmental impacts. Key outcomes of the FIP include increasing laboratory sampling tall sites from quarterly to monthly, the introduction of daily onsite field sampling and the introduction of independent macro-invertebrate monitoring.
Our freshwater sites
The hatchery is where it all begins for our fish and we are constantly improving our practices to care for them from the moment the eggs are hand-milked from our broodstock, right through to when they’re transferred to sea. Huon has several freshwater hatcheries and facilities across the state to take advantage of a wider range of environmental conditions.
The conditions in the hatchery are designed to mirror the natural lifecycle of salmon, as well as allowing us to naturally synchronise growth in a way that means we can get fresh, healthy fish all year round. Growth is synchronised by using lights to mimic longer daylight hours, and varying the temperature of the water that we hold the eggs and small fish in, while changes in day length prepare the fish for their transfer to sea.
85% of Huon Salmon is raised in a RAS hatchery prior to grow-out in a marine pen. Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) are highly sophisticated and as each new RAS is built we use the very latest global technology working in collaboration with world leaders like Billund Aquaculture. RAS systems deliver a high level of control resulting in very low freshwater use.
Whale Point Salmon Nursery
Our $43.7M Whale Point nursery is an Australian first; a land-based facility that enables us to grow salmon larger on land before putting them to sea. Since commencing operations in February 2019, the nursery has revolutionised the way we farm salmon, from improving efficiencies in overall production, including 100 per cent waste by-product re-use, to increasing smolt volume capacity, to reducing the time salmon spend at sea
By growing our salmon to a larger size on land we improve the efficiency of our overall production cycle by reducing the time the salmon spend at sea from 14/15 months, to around 12 months. This allows us to better manage our existing leases at sea, enabling longer fallow periods between stocking and separation of year classes—all of which delivers biosecurity and environmental benefits.
In July 2019, just months after commissioning, the facility saw the biggest hatchery-grown salmon in the southern hemisphere transferred to sea; average weight was in excess of 1 kilo. The implementation of a 1km underground fish-out pipe allows for smolt to be pumped from the nursery directly onto the wellboat for transfer to Huon’s marine leases. The fish-out pipe saved 478 truck movements in 2020 alone.
Whale Point uses world-leading water recirculation technology that enables 98 per cent of the freshwater to be repeatedly treated and re-used. The remaining 2 per cent of water has the solids removed through a flocculation process which separates solid and liquid particles first through a belt filter and then centrifuge for inclusion into compost.
Forest Home Hatchery
Construction of our $35M Forest Home Hatchery at Judbury (situated on the Huon River) began in 2014. Egg incubation at the site commenced in August 2015, with the first fish going to sea in June 2016.
Forest Home is a Recirculation Aquaculture System (RAS) facility meaning that it provides the best growing conditions for the fish while also having a minimal environmental footprint.
The hatchery has five separate systems under one roof; two for incubation and three for fish, with each section totally independent of the other to provide the maximum level of biosecurity. The building is green and tiered, designed to blend into the landscape to reduce the visual impact on neighbours. Riparian zone tree planting has also been undertaken across the property.
Fertilised eggs from Lonnavale and Springfield hatcheries are hatched and grown on at Forest Home. Once they reach 150-250g, there are transferred to sea. In some cases, salmon fry weighing between 15-50g are transferred to Whale Point nursery to be reared until their sea transfer. The facility is capable of producing 580 tonnes of fish across the year, providing potentially 17,000 tonnes of whole fish at harvest.
The water used in the hatchery comes from the nearby river or from a bore on the property. This water is filtered and disinfected with ozone and UV treatment before entering the hatchery. This process ensures the conditions within the hatchery are controlled to provide optimal growing conditions.
As part of the recirculation process, all waste from the fish is collected and separated into solid and liquid fractions. All solids are transported off site for spreading on farmland as compost. Wastewater is filtered to remove fine solids and is then passed through ozone treatment for disinfection. Once disinfected, it passes into two settlement and storage dams and is irrigated onto the Forest Home farmland in the drier summer months. The farmland was certified as organic by NASAA in late 2019, with the organic-standard fodder produced on site used by Bruny Island Cheese.
Our Bridport Hatchery is at the mouth of the Brid River in the State’s north east. The hatchery was originally established in 1964, and was home to Tasmania’s first commercial trout farm. Today, the hatchery operates as a flow-through aquaculture facility, with water drawn from the Brid River before being returned to the Estuary.
The hatchery has its own incubation unit, a small recirculation facility for start feeding, twelve fry tanks, three large tanks plus smaller tanks and two concrete raceways. Here trout are raised to 400g before transfer to Macquarie Harbour, and salmon smolt are raised to 200g.
Unlike some of our other hatcheries, the Bridport facility does not hold broodstock for egg production so fertilised eggs are brought in from our nearby Springfield hatchery. At Bridport they hatch, and are grown to size ready to be transferred to sea.
Given the hatchery’s long history of operation, we have recently undertaken a series of upgrades to improve existing site infrastructure and staff amenities.
Upgrades include replacing the water-intake pipeline, stabilisation and repair of the original water race, improving filtration, disinfection of the incubation and start feeding recirculation facilities, and drought mitigation.
Our Millybrook Hatchery is in a remote location near the head waters of the South Esk River, in the Esk River valley near Mathinna, an hour and a half from Launceston.
The site was established as a traditional flow-through facility, with water drawn directly from the South Esk River. The water flows through six grow-out tanks and eight earth raceways before entering a large landscaped settlement pond before being returned into the river. Established flora and fauna in the settlement ponds effectively remove particulates and nutrients in the water before it leaves the farm. To mitigate against drought conditions during summer, a recirculation system has been installed to ensure a continuous water supply.
We regularly conduct water quality sampling, and Millybrook has an ‘A Rating’ for downstream invertebrate communities, which means that there is no change to the river’s macroinvertebrate ecology before or after the hatchery.
Millybrook receives juvenile salmon and trout from our nearby Springfield hatchery for on-growing. The salmon are grown to 200g, and the trout to 500g at which stage they are transferred to sea. Millybook also contract-grows trout for the Inland Fisheries Service (IFS) for stocking in rivers and dams across Tasmania.
Our Springfield Hatchery is located approximately 20 kilometres from Scottsdale on the banks of the Myrtle Grove Creek. The hatchery is one of the oldest in the state and once produced salmon and trout eggs for export around the world.
The site is a combination of outdoor flow through ponds which house broodstock and six grow out tanks for smolt production, plus a recirculation, incubation and start feeding facility for the fry and a recirculation facility for broodstock.
The broodstock in the ponds are mainly for salmon and trout caviar production whereas the broodstock in the recirculation facility provide approximately 60 per cent of the company’s commercial production from selectively-bred broodstock. The recirculation facilities allow us to maintain the optimal conditions for best quality and performance to ensure broodstock are kept in peak condition.
Unlike our other flow through facilities, Springfield has the benefit of having two water supplies. The first is a spring-fed supply from the Myrtle Grove Creek and the other irrigation flow from the Headquarters Road dam on it’s way to the Forester river. The dam was completed a few years ago and has ensured water is always available during dry summers.
The outflow from the flow through facilities passes through a long vegetated settlement dam to remove nutrient before entering the Forester river.
The outflow from the recirculation units is used by a neighbouring dairy farmer for irrigation and fertiliser.
Lonnavale Hatchery is located on the banks of the Russell River, 30 minutes from Huonville. When first purchased by Huon in 2006, the site (just flow-through) had operated as a privately-owned salmon and trout grow-out system using a network of outdoor ponds. At that time, the site biomass was over 49,000 kg with the feed tally in excess of 50,000 kg per year peaking at an average of 475 kilso per day.
The development of the RAS system in 2008 allowed Huon to transfer all smolt production from the ponds, reduce the biomass remaining in the system by more than 90 per cent and convert the grow-out ponds to only hold broodstock. By having broodstock onsite biosecurity was improved as eggs were produced onsite and not transferred across other facilities.
Today, the broodstock in the flow-through are a minor but valuable component of the operations at Lonnavale, with the main production taking place within the RAS facility. Average daily feed (for the outside ponds) has reduced to 25kg per day; a reduction of 94 per cent on the 2007 peak.
The RAS facility includes incubation and fish rearing tanks. The eggs are fertilised by hand and held onsite in a series of cylindrical tanks. Eggs are kept at a low temperature until they are ready for hatching, at which time they are moved into trays and the water temperature is raised to encourage their lifecycle to start. We grow the hatched salmon at Lonnavale until they are ready for transfer to sea, or onto Forest Home for on-growing.
RAS wastewater at the site is irrigated on plantation forests. To ensure there is no irrigation run off during the wetter cooler months, the water is stored in dams. In the drier summer months, this water is used to drip-irrigate plantation forest on the surrounding property, Maiden Meadows. Irrigation is controlled by soil moisture sensors and irrigation is conducted according to the Environmental Protection Agency approved Wastewater Reuse Environmental Management Plan.
The flow-through tanks are fitted with drum screens to remove any waste and the water then flows through two settlement ponds and an extended riffle section (shallow gravelly stream bed) before it enters the river.
Our Lonnavale facility, environmentally, is our most closely scrutinised and monitored site due to its location at the edge of the Tasmanian wilderness area. We are proud of our environmental management at this location and the regular monitoring of the Russell River justifies our efforts (Spring 2019 and Autumn 2020 reports).
Meadowbank Hatchery is located on the banks of the River Derwent about 1km below Meadowbank dam in the middle Derwent Valley.
The facility is a non-consumptive water user in that all water that is drawn from the River Derwent is returned to the River Derwent.
Water drawn directly from the River Derwent flows through the fourteen grow out tanks. The outflow immediately passes through drum screens that removes nutrients and waste feed larger than 60 microns (0.06mm) which is then used by a neighbouring farmer as fertiliser. The remaining water enters large settlement dams followed by a mature extensive wetland system that absorbs most nutrient before it is eventually returned to the river. In 2020, over 350 tonnes of waste was captured and removed from the site and re-used as fertiliser.
This site on grows fry it receives from the other Huon hatcheries, primarily Forest Home and Lonnavale.
Monthly and annual reports are provided to the Environmental Protection Authority to ensure the hatchery’s outputs are within the parameters outlined in the Environmental Licence.
Our newest freshwater recirculation facility is located in Bagdad, north of Hobart, originally built for on-growing eels.
Huon began operations at the facility in 2018 and uses the site to hold broodstock. The broodstock spawn out of season which allows us to supply the market with the right size fish for harvest all year round. This facility at Bagdad has sixteen 9,000 litre tanks with capacity to hold maximum of around 2000 fish (max biomass 13,000 kgs).
Once a year milt and eggs are collected from the broodstock which, once fertilised, are incubated and hatched at our Forest Home and Lonnavale hatcheries. These delayed broodstock allow us to spawn in mid-August each year, and develop additional smolt.
New Norfolk Facility
In the backstreets of New Norfolk in Tasmania’s Derwent Valley, is one of Huon’s lesser-known freshwater sites which plays an important role in Huon’s ability to produce salmon eggs year-round.
New Norfolk is home to ‘advanced broodstock’. These broodstock produce eggs out-of-season which, in combination with our regular and delayed broodstock, enables us to produce eggs year-round. New Norfolk also plays host to feed trials and has seen the development of new salmon diets.