From hydroponics to aeroponics, the Hawkesbury campus of Western Sydney University (WSU) is trialing everything from new glass smartfilms to 'training' native stingless bees to pollinate glasshouse crops. While glasshouse production in Europe is largely about increasing heat into the glasshouse space, in Australia the challenge is to moderate the heat with special film surfaces on the glass to create the best growing environments. Already it's believed up to 40 percent of Australian horticulture is grown in protected spaces.
Helping to steer the program and create partnerships is Dr Nisha Rakhesh, the Institute's senior advisor in Research Strategy and Partnerships. Originally from India, she migrated to Australia and completed her Ph.D. in Agricultural Sciences at the University of New England. She was previously Senior Project Officer (Sugarcane Nutrient Management and Sustainable Agriculture) with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland Government.
It's all being perfected in the existing $7m research glasshouse at Richmond, a joint venture between WSU and Hort Innovation Australia. The rooms control temperature, humidity, CO2 and light and were designed by Wageningen University Research in The Netherlands, and is the largest facility of its type in the Southern Hemisphere.
The bottom line of the glasshouse production is very exciting: a low carbon footprint, increasing crop production five times with a tenth of the inputs. Dr. Rakhesh says the ceiling is unlimited to glasshouse crop production. "Climate variability in farming will continue to upset crops each year and there will be increasing demand for fresh produce at the same time.
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