28 December 2007
South African empowerment company Sea Ark Africa has signed an agreement with China Direct to provide it with advanced mariculture technology and remotely manage prawn farms in the southeastern Chinese city of Zhanjiang.
The technology transfer forms part of a larger R9.2-billion deal, in which Sea Ark is developing a 1 200 hectare giant prawn farming facility at the Coega Industrial Development Zone outside Port Elizabeth.
“Perfected in South Africa after 15 years of research in the US and locally, the technology deployed in China Direct’s facility in the Zhanjiang economic development zone will be built and managed online from Coega by BuildAll and Sondolo IT,” Sea Ark said in a statement earlier this month.
Sea Ark, project management company BuldAll and information technology company Sondolo IT all belong to the Bosasa Group of companies, a diversified broad-based black economic empowerment (BEE) organisation that operates nationally.
According to the statement, Sea Ark and its partners have perfected the world’s first closed bio-secure prawn farming system, where advanced technology combining computer-driven control systems with biological science will dramatically change the way prawn and shrimp are produced in the world.
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 a lower food consumption rate, and with greater densities than in any other system currently operating worldwide.
“Through our bio-secure 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.”
Remote monitoring, strict control
In China, BuildAll will deploy a permanent team of four project managers, and Sondolo IT will deploy software engineers for the duration of the construction of the Zhanjiang plant.
Supported by architects, plumbers, electrical, civil, and software engineers on a rotational basis, the team will ensure that the Chinese facility is built to the exact tolerances and specifications developed in Coega during the pilot phase.
“The construction has to be extremely exact for Sea Ark’s science to work,” said Buildall chairman Arthur Kotzen. “Sometimes it is literally a matter of millimetres – the ponds have to be done in a precise way for the operating systems to work.”
As a party to the agreements between Sea Ark and China Direct, BuildAll has contracted to ensure that every one of the 8 000 ponds to be built in China conform to the norms established at Coega, which now form part of the patented Sea Ark system.
Once the Chinese facility is fully operational, technical experts from BuildAll will stay in China to help run the project and to convert existing open ponds to the closed, bio-secure Sea Ark system.
“Perhaps more importantly, many of Sea Ark’s patented processes will be run remotely from Coega,” Sea Ark said. “Among others, water quality and temperature, feed consistency, and plant bio-security will be monitored online by South African technicians working around the clock at the Coega research and development centre.”
Sea Ark Africa will be the international research and development centre providing its services to a global family of Sea Ark operations, all developed at Coega.