Agribusiness and aquaculture
The Northern Territory presents global markets with untapped natural potential for the production of clean and safe foods, in an environment with good water resources and arable land suitable for grazing and other agricultural development.
Demand for protein from the rapidly increasing middle class population in Asia is forecast to grow significantly over the coming decades. Concerns about the future of food security will increasingly lead to a premium on safe, clean sources of food, such as that which can be produced in the Northern Territory. Prices for high quality food are likely to increase in line with growing global demand, enhancing potential returns.
Australia's niche and premium food supply offerings are prized around the world. Opportunities to grow and produce foods at scale are available throughout the Northern Territory.
The supply chain to neighbouring markets is supported by an integrated system of road, rail and port infrastructure.
Well-established agricultural areas produce cattle, seafood, fruit, vegetables, crops and forestry products. There are also opportunities to develop significant areas of land where good soils and water co-exist. There is abundant and reliable rainfall in the north of the Northern Territory, water storage adjacent to major population centres, and access to underground aquifers.
One of the largest sectors in Northern Territory agriculture is the beef industry. Operating for more than a century, the beef industry has evolved through a long history of foreign investment in large cattle stations, initially by the British and Americans. That continues to this day, with more recent successful investments in the beef industry including:
- The Beetaloo Station in the Northern Territory has invested $40m in pilot stock water infrastructure, raising the cattle carrying capacity from 20,000 in 2002 to now 80,000.
- Australian Green Properties (the Philippines) investment into three cattle stations in the Barkly and Alice Springs regions.
- Chinese investment into the Elizabeth Downs and Wollogorang cattle stations valued at $16.6 million.
- AACo’s $91 million Livingstone beef processing facility, 50km south of Darwin, opened in 2015 and has a daily capacity of 1000 head of cattle. It services cattle grazing across northern Australia for export and domestic boxed beef markets.
The Northern Territory is also known for producing world class barramundi, tropical fruits, pears and crocodile leather products.
Agribusiness in northern Australia is an important focus for the Australian Government, already paying dividends with increases in investment from countries such as Indonesia and China.
The Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness white paper will form the foundation for delivering stronger returns for farm businesses. The white paper addresses a potential $4 billion investment into the Australian farming sector and details five key priorities for government:
- Competition, regulation and taxation reform for farm businesses.
- Building 21st century water, transport and communications infrastructure.
- Strengthening Australia’s approach to drought and risk management.
- Research and development of smarter approaches to farming.
- Trade access to premium markets.
Advantages that set the Northern Territory apart
- Substantial precincts of arable land.
- Abundant and reliable rainfall in the north, water storage adjacent to major population centres, and access to underground aquifers.
- Unspoilt, isolated environment with effective regulatory controls to maintain sustainable ecologies, supported by strong biosecurity to minimise disease risk.
- High-level support for agricultural development in northern Australia from the Federal Government, with strong funding for research, infrastructure and trade promotion.
- Established transport infrastructure and services to efficiently get product to international markets.
Opportunities for investors
The north of the Northern Territory shares similarities in climate, weather patterns, horticultural crops and ethnic links with the tropical regions of South East Asia. Being south of the equator, the Northern Territory can supply fresh produce when northern hemisphere producers are out of season.
The extensive coastline of the Northern Territory provides many sites with pristine water suitable for aquaculture farms, isolated from potential incursion of disease. Barramundi, prawn and pearl farms have been successfully established, and there is substantial scope for large scale investment.
Tropical fruits and vegetables
The Northern Territory is already a substantial producer of high quality mangoes, and there is now a deep knowledge base of science and horticultural techniques for propagation of mangoes in the northern tropics.
There are further successes in introducing tropical fruits and vegetables in high demand in Asian markets, and the Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries has skills and expertise available to potential investors.
There are substantial reserves of underground water in aquifers throughout the northern part of the Northern Territory, which can be readily drawn upon to support irrigation in large scale forestry plantations. For example, a major sandalwood plantation is now in an advanced stage of development.
Tiwi Islands horticulture
The Tiwi Islands immediately north of Darwin are actively pursuing horticultural development of their fertile land, with the local Indigenous community providing an integrated package of support including ready access to land and labour.
Project Sea Dragon case study
In 2010 Seafarms Group Limited began to investigate the opportunities for new agribusiness and food development projects. A concept study for the development of large scale aquaculture production systems in northern Australia was completed in June 2012.
Facilities will be developed that will ultimately make it the largest aquaculture development ever proposed in Australia and one of the largest ventures of its type in the world.
Project Sea Dragon aims to develop 10,000 hectares of land-based aquaculture at Legune Station, a 180,000 hectare operating cattle station in the Keep River Region of the Northern Territory. It will be a fully integrated marine protein production operation.
Land-based, pond growout facilities will produce over 100,000 tonnes of black tiger prawns per annum, principally for export to Asian markets. Product processing facilities will handle the large quantities of prawns efficiently and hygienically. The scale of the project will generate significant cost advantages.
Project Sea Dragon will see the staging of Australia’s largest, world scale land-based aquaculture project over five to seven years. Over 1,500 jobs will be created and numerous ancillary business opportunities throughout the Northern Territory.
Creating the remarkable
The Northern Territory Government has provided a single point of contact and support services along the development pathway.
The project is able to utilise land from our existing pastoral lease due to legislative amendments allowing long-term non-pastoral use passed by the government in 2014.
"We couldn’t undertake this project in Western Australia or Queensland. None of the legislative instruments that are necessary for it to occur are in place."
"It’s been in my view visionary to establish the non-pastoral use component, and that’s very much why this project is here."
Sea Farms Group
The Northern Territory has substantial precincts of arable land suitable for a range of crops, abundant and reliable rainfall in the north, and access to underground aquifers.