The primary sector takes another step towards lifting its sustainability with the trialling of a new hydroponic growing technique that aims to have higher yields and a lower impact on the environment, the Australian Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.
The Government is backing Southern Fresh Foods, a hydroponic indoor farm with more than $869,000 through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures) to set up an advanced technology farm. Southern Fresh Foods will contribute $1.28 million to the venture over two and a half years.
“The project near Cambridge seeks to sustainably provide year-round production of baby leaf salads, herbs, and vegetables, and to set a benchmark of 100 percent yields,” Damien O’Connor said. “It’s testing an overseas growing system to ensure it can be adapted to local climatic conditions. “The project is aiming for consistently high volumes of quality produce with a lighter impact on the environment – and so far, the results look promising.”
Damien O’Connor said the technology involves an automated moving gully system. “It’s unique and significantly more advanced than the hydroponic systems currently found in New Zealand. The system uses robotics to optimise space-usage based on the life stage and size of the plants being grown. It’s a climatic-based system and highly technical, so Southern Fresh Food has been researching the optimum LED lighting and nutrient needs for different plants at the farm’s Waikato location. They have been analysing crop yield, financial return, pesticide and fertiliser use, and carbon emissions,” Damien O’Connor said.
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