THE WEST Australian state government has laid the foundations for what it claims will be the largest agricultural project in the state’s north.

Construction has begun on a high-tech cotton processing facility in Kununurra that is expected to deliver a $250 million economic benefit to the Kimberley region.

Regional development minister Don Punch said the government had been working alongside industry and traditional owners to build a strong, sustainable cotton industry from the ground up.

“This sustainable development meets the credentials expected by today’s international customers, including a renewable energy source and the potential value-adding opportunities for cotton fodder,” Mr Punch said.

Cotton has a chequered history in the Ord River Irrigation Area of the Kimberley, grown commercially between 1964 and 1974 with subsidies from the WA government.

Insect pests and quality issues caused the project’s failure. Now, new genetically modified varieties have been developed that cope with local conditions.

The high-tech cotton gin separates cotton fibers from the seeds so the fibers can be processed.

The multi-user facility is on track for completion in time for the 2025 harvest and is expected to generate more than 40 new local jobs once fully operational.

It is also expected to provide broader supply chain employment opportunities once fully operational.

The plant will initially be able to process up to 110,000 bales of cotton per year with plans to eventually double that capacity.

The state government has invested $4 million to upgrade electricity infrastructure providing land, and facilitating approvals for the cotton gin which will be serviced by 100% renewable, zero-emission hydroelectric power sourced from Lake Argyle.

The Cook Government has also provided a $5 million grant to Kimberley Cotton Company through the Investment Attraction Fund, which helped the company to secure a $34 million loan through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

Preparatory works to cultivate cotton on the 5400-hectare Knox farmland is underway by Kimberley Agricultural Investment in partnership with Keep Farming, with initial plantings expected next year. 

A $77 million state government investment to widen the main water supply channel to supply water from Lake Argyle to Knox by the Water Corporation is also under way.