Macro-algae technology enabling sustainable growth of aquaculture and agriculture and Reef protection

Townsville Enterprise is delighted to announce a transformational project that will enable sustainable growth of agriculture and aquaculture industries in North Queensland while reducing pollution of the Great Barrier Reef.

RegenAqua is homegrown, world leading technology pioneered by world leader James Cook University (JCU) in partnership with Pacific Biotechnologies Pty Limited (PacBio), an innovative 100% Australian owned company.

High levels of nitrogen and phosphorous are currently being discharged into rivers and Great Barrier Reef waters from aquaculture and from municipal wastewater facilities.

RegenAqua uses sunlight to convert these nutrients into macroalgae (seaweed) which is then processed into a biostimulant to replace conventional fertilisers. The benefits are cleaner water, further aquaculture expansion and growth in sustainable agriculture.

The system was developed as a solution to reduce nutrient discharge on PacBio’s aquaculture assets, however highly successful trials at Cleveland Bay and more recently at the Burdekin Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTP) have proven the technology as an effective, low cost, scalable solution for all Councils.

Successful trials have been conducted at Townsville’s Cleveland Bay sewerage treatment plant (STP) with published results showing a total Nitrogen reduction of 36% to 2mg/L, and a total phosphorus reduction of 65% to 0.3mg/L, and a highly successful small-scale pilot is already successfully operating in the Burdekin Shire.

From the Chief Executive Officer... 

"All the ingredients for a sustainable future are in North Queensland, and RegenAqua is yet another project that supports the national interests."

“RegenAqua is a win-win for not only the protection of our beloved Great Barrier Reef, but also for the future growth of our nation’s agriculture and aquaculture industries.

“This project supports jobs and economic development in North Queensland and importantly demonstrates a practical solution to protecting one of the world’s greatest gifts bestowed upon Queensland - the Great Barrier Reef.

“This world leading Australian technology can not only help to protect the Great Barrier Reef but could be exported to other nations in need of support of their ecosystems and reefs.

“It ticks all the boxes for governments as a real solution to achieve greater sustainability of our precious natural assets, but with an economic development lens that can be commercialised into a nation-building project to positively benefit all Australians.”

Claudia Brumme-Smith
Chief Executive Officer
Townsville Enterprise

Burdekin Shire Council Mayor Cr Lyn McLaughlin, Pacific Biotechnologies CEO Sam Bastounas, Townsville Enterprise CEO Claudia Brumme-Smith, and Hinchinbrook Shire Council Mayor Cr Ramon Jayo

Burdekin Shire Council Mayor, Cr Lyn McLaughlin...

“The small-scale Macro-Algal Bioremediation Facility at the Ayr/Brandon Waste Water Treatment Plant has been operating for eight months and in that time, has demonstrated the potential to significantly reduce harmful nutrients, including other elements like aluminium and heavy metals, in the effluent treated."

“A full-scale demonstration represents not only a world-first that could revolutionise the treatment of effluent to ensure less environmental impact, but offer an alternative treatment option which is significantly cheaper to construct, operate and maintain while just as effective in removal of targeted nutrients.

“Council was proud to partner with Pacific Bio and James Cook University for the pilot, however now that the trial is at expansion stage, it is time for other tiers of government to recognise the global significance of this project and support it however they can.”


Stage 1: Burdekin Project = $8.8 million
The construction of a 5.5 hectare bioremediation facility at the Ayr/Brandon WWTP will enable a full scale facility to be constructed. This facility would then be duplicated at other WWTP sites throughout Queensland that are discharging to the Great Barrier Reef. The technology has significantly lower capital and operating cost than other current conventional tertiary treatment upgrade options designed to remove nitrogen and phosphorus.

Stage 2: Regional Deployment = $24 million
Establish facilities across the Local Government Areas of Townsville, Hinchinbrook Shire, Charters Towers, and Palm Island.

Stage 3: Remaining 17 GBR LGAs = $100 million
The data from the first five LGAs will enable the remaining 17 Queensland LGAs in the Great Barrier Reef catchment zone to adopt this solution and significantly reduce nutrient discharge.

Hinchinbrook Shire Council Mayor, Cr Ramon Jayo

"The RegenAqua technology is an exciting prospect for the region."

“It’s positive that the initial trial results indicate that it’s good for soil health and could lessen our reliance on synthetic fertiliser to ameliorate soil.

"We’re excited about what this could mean for Hinchinbrook and I can see a big future for this project in relation to cane farming in our region.”

James Cook University Vice Chancellor, Professor Sandra Harding

"There is tremendous potential for the growth of the aquaculture sector in northern Queensland, including projects such as RegenAqua."

“This world-leading technology has been developed at JCU in close partnership with industry.

"We are excited about the prospects for expansion of this project.”

Pacific Biotechnologies CEO, Sam Bastounas... 

“RegenAqua represents a real opportunity to deploy innovative homegrown technology to deliver a world first right here in North Queensland. It is low cost, scalable and readily deployable."

“It is an innovative, low risk and cost effective solution that improves water quality in the Great Barrier Reef catchment and significantly reduces nutrient runoff.

"Importantly, RegenAqua provides practical, much-needed assistance to Councils that are currently unable to manage the burden of wastewater treatment around the Great Barrier Reef and provide new jobs in Queensland.”

More information...

The basic principle of RegenAqua is that native green algae use sunlight to absorb phosphorus and nitrogen (nutrient pollutants) from the waste waster stream prior to discharge into the environment.

Green algae is then harvested and converted into a biostimulant (PlantJuice) that enables the return of these elements back into the agricultural biosphere in a safe, low energy and value adding form (like auxins, gibberellins etc.) rather than as damaging dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN).

These natural hormones enable plant growth and enrich soils reducing the dependency on traditional Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) fertiliser systems widely considered a source of diffuse nutrient discharge and pollution across the Great Barrier Reef catchment areas.

The RegenAqua system was approved by GBRMPA for aquaculture in 2017 and was recently endorsed in September by the former Chief Scientist of Australia, Professor Ian Chubb.

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