13 December 2007
Port Elizabeth-based empowerment firm Sea Ark Africa has announced its intention to invest R9.2-billion in a high-tech giant prawn farming facility at the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) in the Eastern Cape.
The 1 200 hectare plant is expected to reach full capacity by 2014 and employ up to 11 000 people.
“Besides making a huge contribution to the future of the Coega IDZ and the Eastern Cape economy, Sea Ark will have a direct and positive effect on the lives of thousands of families in the surrounding communities, particularly Motherwell,” Sea Ark chief executive Gavin Watson said in a statement on Tuesday.
“By creating jobs and opportunities for small businesses, Sea Ark will contribute to the empowerment of the people in the Nelson Mandela Metro and beyond.”
The move follows a successful pilot phase in which South African and US scientists worked with project management company BuildAll and information technology company Sondolo IT to perfect the world’s first closed bio-secure prawn farming system.
Sea Ark, BuildAll and Sondolo IT all belong to the Bosasa Group of companies, a diversified broad-based black economic empowerment (BEE) organisation that operates nationally.
“The advanced technology, combining computer driven control systems with advanced biological science, will dramatically change the way prawn and shrimp are produced in the world,” says Sea Ark.
Producing the jumbo shrimp which are in high demand on the US, Japan, Europe and other markets, the pilot project has proven that the innovative mix of science and technology has the ability to grow prawns faster, with lower food consumption and greater densities than in any other system currently operating worldwide.
Sea Ark states that when fully rolled out by 2014, the Coega plant will have the capacity to produce 20 000 tons of prawns a year, most of which are expected to be exported, contributing positively to South Africa’s balance of payments.
“Through our biosecure indoor ponds and by using our proper nutritional system, we are able to maximise size, growth, survivability and biomass – and through this obviously we are able to maximise productivity,” said Sea Ark international president Dave Wills.
“What prawn farms across the world do in three to four months, we do in 10 to 11 weeks. We can literally grow a prawn to the same size as our competitors two to three times faster.”
An economic impact study has shown that besides creating 11 000 largely semi-skilled and unskilled direct jobs when the project has grown to full maturity in six years, Sea Ark’s Coega facility has the ability to generate 88 000 indirect employment opportunities in support industries ranging from transport to catering, security, construction and maintenance.
“Besides 1 000 jobs for women in the prawn processing facility to be built as part of Sea Ark’s job rollout, there will be significant numbers of skilled posts for laboratory technicians, marine biologists, software specialists, and engineers,” Sea Ark said.