BIG FISH: James Small hopes to revive Wallangarra with his barramundi farm.
BIG FISH: James Small hopes to revive Wallangarra with his barramundi farm. Molly Glassey

Wallan-barra: Fish farm to transform ghost town

WALLANGARRA could go from "ghost town" to gill-central, with a new project set to see the town boom with barramundi.

James Small and his team want to make fresh, farmed fish the small town's number one export, and he said the first fillet could be on a plate within two years.

"Eighty per cent of Australia's barramundi is imported from Thailand," Mr Small said.

"And they feed them rubbish.

"So we thought why not produce barramundi right here in Wallangarra.

"We're looking to produce 1000kg of barramundi a week, and I'd like to see it running within 18 months."

Mr Small has lived in Wallangarra for "20-odd years", and said he could see the project go from small farm to a transformation of the town if his dreams properly panned out.

"We want to convert the old butcher shop into a processing plant and a retail store," he said.

"And we'd like to use the Wallangarra Train Station as our restaurant.

"People will be able to sit and eat fish that's come from a few hundred metres down the road."

As for the logistics, Mr Small said he was still looking for a plot of land to put in the first Border Barramundi Aquaponics tanks.

"We need a couple of acres to start off," he said.

The farm would used temperature-controlled recycled water allowing fish to be harvested year-round.

The fish are grown in enclosed culture sheds, with wastewater used to grow vegetables, such as lettuce.

"There's a place near Brisbane that will supply us with the fingerlings," Mr Small said.

"Then the last week before they're harvested, they go in a cleansing tank to completely clean the fish."

Mr Small and his team are currently working with Tailor Made Fish Farms, the largest barramundi farm in NSW to ensure the project kicks off swimmingly.

Barra brings business to town

EARLIER this year, in a shock announcement, the Wallangarra Meatworks closed its doors, putting off 260 workers.

Mr Small said the sad transformation of a once vibrant Wallangarra to a ghost town spurred him into action.

"A lot of people left, and some people lost their houses," he said.

"The shop used to supply all the lunches, so they lost their business.

"And then there was the pub that lost customers."

Mr Small said his Border Barramundi Aquaponics project was the first step in reviving his hometown of 20 years.

"We thought 'we'll throw this idea to the town'," he said.

"Most got on board, and a lot of them are excited.

"There's heaps of support form state, federal and local councils, but now we just need money."

Initially, the farm will employ four people, but Mr Small explained the ripple effect of the project would ensure more jobs down the line.

"I think for this area it could be massive," he



"We'll need technical people to come on board, investors, people who can help with solar.

"We have someone we are currently training up to be a water and food expert.

"We expect it will mean big things for the pub and the Railway Cafe.

"They'll be cooking with the fresh fish.

"We want that to be the main and new attraction for the town."

Stage one of the project is the actual barramundi farm, and with the successive stages come extra jobs.

"We want to have a function and education centre on premise," he said.

"Stage four, we would like to put in a big heated dam.

"So people can come in and catch big barramundi in Wallangarra."

If you would like to contact Mr Small about his project, phone him on 0423465916.

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