In an unassuming shed in Bundaberg lie rows of pools awash with psychedelic colour. Thousands of small, neon corals glow under blacklights, destined to leave Australia for the international market.
Growing coral is big business — and operator Monsoon Aquatics is about to undertake an $800,000 expansion with the help of a federal government grant.
The project will see the company investigate spawning coral on a commercial scale to supercharge its supply for aquariums around the world, with the ultimate aim of helping restore the Great Barrier Reef.
Founding director Daniel Kimberley said the Accelerating Commercialisation Grant worth just over $304,000 would enable the company to build a larger facility at the Bundaberg Port and employ more staff.
The company, which began in Darwin in 2008 and expanded to Cairns in 2017 and Bundaberg in 2019, currently employs more than 60 people.
About 80 per cent of the live coral it sells is exported, ending up in the tanks of hobbyists and educational institutions as well as public aquariums.
“It’s the first grant we’ve received, so we’re really excited,” Kimberley said.
“And hopefully, one day, the technology that we get from this project will go towards reef restoration.”
The company currently breeds coral via propagation, which Kimberley compared to “taking cuttings as you would in your garden”.
“Spawning is the next level,” he said.
“So rather than producing 10, 20 or 50 corals from one piece, we might be able to produce 10,000, 20,000 or more.”
The spawning project would focus on three key species and develop techniques that could be used later to help preserve coral on the Great Barrier Reef.
Kimberley, who said he had “salt in his veins” having grown up around his father’s aquarium store, said the company had a responsibility to give back to the reef.
“The reef is a shared resource,” Kimberley said.
“We want to set the standard for aquaculture research, and this will be a sustainable approach, rather than wholly relying on wild-harvested coral species.
“If we want to grow the business anymore, we can’t just take more. We have to make more — and that’s where the aquaculture comes in.”
– ABC / by Eliza GoetzeJump to next article