The Manildra Meat Company, owners of the Cootamundra Abattoir, have applied for council approval to run a six-month trial using part of the facility to produce fish meal and oil.
The company has told Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council it believes the abattoir could operate profitably on a longer-term basis by introducing an alternative "feedstock" - fish - into its rendering plant.
The rendering plant is separate from the main part of the abattoir, where, when operating fully, up to 4000 lamb and goats and 200 head of cattle per day can be slaughtered and turned into carcasses.
The rendering plant, on the southern side of the abattoir, is where the all the trimmed bits left over after the slaughtering, are sent to be converted into tallow and/or protein meal.
Instead of these trimmed bits, including fat, bones, offal and gut material, it is proposed to feed fish into the rendering plant and convert them into meal and oils that can be used in a range of food production processes such as the aquaculture industry, notably the salmon industry in Tasmania.
The proposed trial would involve three trucks of up to 38 tonnes of small ocean fish caught daily on the south coast being transported to Cootamundra
The first truck would arrive around 4-5am and would unload immediately, with processing proceeding at a rate of 4 tonnes an hour, yielding a maximum of 96 tonnes per day.
The second and third trucks would discharge eight and sixteen hours later.
Manildra bought the abattoir in 2014, but high livestock prices and the loss of a supply contract with the main customer for its products, Woolworths, led to shutting it down in 2017, resulting in significant loss of employment in the local area.
When in full operation, the abattoir has the capacity to employ more than 340 people.
The company said the plant was still costing a lot to maintain, even though it was shut.
Staff are needed to keep it in condition to be able to operate in the future, and there are also big insurance premiums, it told the council.
"Such ongoing expenses are clearly not financially sustainable.
"It is proposed to process fish in the rendering plant while the normal livestock processing operations remain shut down.
"This will ensure the site is financially viable and sustainable on an ongoing basis, particularly during troughs in the livestock processing cycle.
"Furthermore such will also not be subject to changing weather patterns.
"The plant would service an entirely new market processing caught fish to produce high quality fish oil and fish meal."
The company said effluent from the fish processing was forecast to be 10% of what would be generated if the abattoir was operating, noise was "insigificant" by comparison, and odour was forecast to be less than the full operation.
Nearby landowners have been given until August 20 to lodge objections.
Other fish sources including NSW and Victorian inland carp may also be trialed.
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