Mining magnate Andrew Forrest's hunger for West Australian seafood continues to grow, with his food business Harvest Road Group's latest target being an Albany-based oyster farm.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Harvest Road announced it had entered into a formal agreement to acquire Ocean Foods International, a Singaporean company that operates an oyster farm at Oyster Harbour near Emu Point in the state's Great Southern.
Andrew Forrest will expand his aquaculture interests with the purchase of an Albany oyster farm.Credit:Jason South
The Emu Point farm is the only supplier of WA oysters to the local market and the acquisition would make Harvest Road one of the country's biggest leaseholders for shellfish aquaculture.
If the acquisition gets the green light from regulators the group signalled its intention to modernise the operation and look at exporting.
Harvest Road owns a swathe of pastoral stations in WA as well as the famed Harvey Beef brand. Over the past five years it has also grown its aquaculture business with a purchase of the state's only mussel producer on Cockburn Sound and an oyster production trial in Carnarvon.
Harvest Road Group chief executive Greg Harvey said he was proud to bring the farm back into local hands and signalled it would look at exports.
“We believe with ongoing support from local and state governments, Western Australia is positioned to become a major producer of shellfish, supplying both the domestic and export markets," he said.
“We believe Albany and the wider Great Southern region will benefit from our local investments, which will allow us to produce shellfish on-site all year round.
"This will result in increased farmgate sales which will be a boost for jobs, aquaculture and tourism in the region. We look forward to finalising our plans with all relevant stakeholders and engaging closely with the local community and existing workforce.”
Dr Forrest said WA's aquaculture sector could drive environmentally sustainable economic growth in regional WA.
“I think this is particularly true when it comes to oysters, which are filter feeders that require no feed to be added to the marine environment and help to naturally remove excess nutrients from the water," he said.
"By building oyster production in Oyster Harbour, we hope to contribute to improved water clarity and support seagrass health in the area.”
Harvest Road will look at whether it can scale up its Carnarvon oyster operation after the trial finishes early next year.
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