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Life on the land in Australia

Bio-reactor barra’ thrive at former mine site south of Sydney

TROPICAL BARRAMUNDI BREEDING IN OLD MINE USING METHANE HEAT GENERATION TO WARM WATER

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Photo: Juvenile barramundi grown in tanks warmed by heat generated from the Woodlawn bioreactor (James Bennett)

New South Wale’s former Woodlawn mine may be environmentally degraded, but the barramundi grown there are as ecologically sound as farmed fish are likely to get.

“What it represents is total resource recovery on the food waste cycle,” said Veolia’s Environmental and Operations Manager Henry Gundry.

Mr Gundry helps run the waste-disposal company’s Woodlawn bioreactor, built at the site of the former open-cut copper lead and zinc mine 220 kilometres south-west of Sydney.

“It’s essentially conventional landfilling, however the unique part about it is the methane extraction happening as the waste is being disposed of,” he explained.

“As you can see down there, there’s a network of pipes, wells, pumps, airlines all connected directly to our power station,” said Mr Gundry, pointing to the bottom of the mine pit, which is slowing being re-filled with 500, 000 tonnes of waste a year.

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“We extract the gas out of the waste as it’s produced, and that fuel is directly delivered to the engines of the power station.”

The combustion engines generate 6 megawatts of electricity, which is fed back into the grid.

But they also generate a lot of heat.

That, Mr Gundry explains, is how the company can grow a tropical fish in the series of tanks installed onsite.

Veolia's Woodlawn Bioreactor image www.ozrural.com

“The heat is used to create an optimum environment for the barramundi we grow here, we heat the water to about 28 degrees and with the optimum food intake they have a very quick growth rate.”

Once the fish weigh between 600 and 800 grams (ideal plate size), they’re sent to Canberra fish wholesaler John Fragopoulos.

“These [fish] are amongst the best. I cannot get enough!” Mr Fragopoulos exclaimed excitedly about the colour and taste of the bio-farmed barramundi.

Veolia’s annual production of just 2.5 tonnes is too small for the company to break even, nor is it sufficient for Mr Fragopoulos to guarantee supply to his customers.

But he’s nevertheless very encouraging of what he sees as the seafood industry’s future.

“The wild catch is just not enough,” Mr Fragopoulos said, adding that even with imports, he’s still unable to satisfy demand.

“It is welcome… to see people wanting to invest in aquaculture in Australia, whether it is prawns, silver perch, barramundi, oysters.

“We have the knowhow,” he said.

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Henry Sapiecha

December 19th, 2014
Topic: AQUACULTURE, ECO SYSTEMS, ENERGY PRODUCTION, Fish, FOOD DRINK, RE-CYCLE Tags: , , , ,

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