The hatchery is where it all begins for our fish. We are continually improving our practices to care for them from the moment the eggs are hand-milked from the brood fish, right through to their transfer to sea.
The conditions in the hatchery are designed to mirror the natural life-cycle of salmon, as well as allowing us to naturally synchronise growth in a way that means we can get fresh, healthy fish to your plate 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.
Huon’s Freshwater Improvement Programme (FIP)
To continue to operate responsibly and remain at the forefront of our industry, we must continuously improve. This means that we must continue to make substantial advances in our farming operations to ensure we a remain 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.
You can read more about each of our sites below:
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 brood stock. Once a year we collect milt and eggs from these fish which, once fertilised, are incubated and hatched at our nearby Forest Home and Lonnavale Hatcheries. The brood spawn out of season which allows us to supply the market with the right size fish for harvest all year round.
New Norfolk Facility
The recirculation facility at New Norfolk was originally established by the Inland Fisheries Service (IFS) to hatch and grow trout fry and fingerlings for stocking Tasmanian rivers and lakes for fishing. Over time the requirement for this declined and the facility became available to Huon in 2015.
The site is used to run spawning trials with brood stock in the larger tanks and controlled feed trials in smaller tanks. Some feed trials are run solely by Huon and others are run in collaboration with feed manufacturers. These trials are conducted to ensure that Huon uses the best quality ingredients to give us the best performance, health, welfare and quality outcomes for our fish.
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 brood stock 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.
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 brood stock and six grow out tanks for smolt production, plus a recirculation, incubation and start feeding facility for the fry and a recirculation facility for brood stock.
The brood stock in the ponds are mainly for caviar production whereas the brood stock in the recirculation facility provide approximately 60% of the company’s commercial production from selectively bred brood stock. The recirculation facilities allow us to maintain the optimal conditions for best quality and performance to ensure brood stock 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.
The Lonnavale Hatchery is located on the banks of the Russel River, 30 minutes from Huonville.
The site is a diversity hotspot with Huon staff seeing quolls, wallabies, snakes and platypus on a near daily basis.
The Hatchery holds a few brood stock in seven ponds and four tanks in the flow through facility, and incubates eggs and grows the stock through to smolt transfer in a self-contained recirculation unit.
The Lonnavale Hatchery site consists of several components:
- Brood stock—the flow through section houses up to 1,000 mature brood stock for egg production
- Incubation recirculation unit—where the eggs are fertilized and incubated through to the start feeding stage
- Fry and parr recirculation unit—from start feeding to approximately 60g
- Smolt recirculation unit—here they grow from 60 to 150–200grams before being transferred to sea
- Irrigation—where the waste recirculated water is stored and 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. The hatchery operates under a strict Environmental Protection Notice with very low emission limits that are monitored by regular sampling.
The attached Annual Environmental Review (2018) for the Lonnavale hatchery summarises the management of the site over the 2018 year and includes monthly results for a range of environmental and biodiversity indicators. 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.
For more information about the facility including the extensive environmental monitoring undertaken each month, read this Fact Sheet.
Forest Home Hatchery
Construction of our $35 million 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. The site was officially opened by Premier Will Hodgman MP in November 2016.
This hatchery 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. At the time of building, Forest Home represented the second generation of our recirculation hatcheries. Lonnavale was our first RAS facility, representing a shift from our traditional flow-through style hatcheries.
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. The solids are transported off site for use as in compost and fertiliser on nearby farm land. 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 adjacent farm land in the drier summer months. The Forest Home farmland on which the hatchery sits was certified as organic by NASAA in late 2019.
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. When fully operational, the Forest Home hatchery produces 2.1 million top quality smolt over three batches, mainly during March/April, May/June and September each year. Two million fry are also supplied to our Whale Point nursery over two batches in November/December and May/June. The facility is capable of producing 580 tonnes of fish across the year, providing potentially 17,000 tonnes of whole fish at harvest.
The SALTAS Hatchery is located in the upper Derwent Valley at Wayatinah and Florentine. This is an industry owned and run hatchery where Huon collaborates with other Tasmanian salmon growers in running the industry selective breeding program.
The program has run since 2004, and sees fish carefully selected and bred in a way that both ensures the genetic strength of the stock and improvement in key performance traits. Key traits include increased amoeba resistance, growth and improved fish quality. We receive brood stock from this facility to use in our other hatcheries.
The Meadowbank Hatchery is located on the banks of the River Derwent below Meadowbank dam in the middle Derwent Valley.
The site is a traditional flow through facility, with water drawn directly from the River Derwent flowing through the fourteen grow out tanks. The outflow immediately passes through drum screens that removes nutrients and waste feed which is used by a neighbouring farmer as fertiliser. The remaining water enters large settlement dams and then into a mature extensive wetland system that absorbs most nutrient before it is eventually returned to the river.
This site on grows fry it receives from the other Huon hatcheries, primarily Forest Home and Lonnavale.
The attached Annual Environmental Review (2018) for the Meadowbank hatchery summarises the management of the site over the 2018 year and includes monthly results for a range of environmental and biodiversity indicators. 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.
Transport to Sea
When smolt are ready to go to sea, they are transported from our hatcheries in specially designed tankers. Fish destined for leases in the state’s South are taken to Port Huon where they are transferred onto our wellboat. Those destined for Macquarie Harbour are transferred onto our landing barge the Captain Bill and piped directly into the pens.