AgDay is an opportunity to celebrate agriculture, which has always been, and will continue to be Australia's most important industry.
Employing 30 per cent more people than the mining industry, the farm sector is one of the very few bright lights for Australian industry as our intractable labour market framework and technological change continue to decimate the manufacturing sector.
The convergence of capital investment and new technology is creating new horizons for farming in Australia. The farm is a very exciting place to be.
Protected cropping describes horticultural systems, which aim to create the perfect environment for growing healthy and productive plants which in turn produce high quality, nutritious fruits and vegetables all year round. By controlling the key variables of light, temperature and humidity; water and fertiliser; and carbon dioxide; protected cropping can produce much higher volumes with great efficiency – using less water, less fertiliser and without run-off, or reliance on pesticides.
Nectar Farms is bringing the latest in protected cropping technology to Australia. The company’s first project is located at Joel Joel, 22 kilometres east of Stawell, in the Northern Grampians Shire. Following an extensive vendor selection process, Nectar Farms will be erecting 40 hectares of glasshouses at Joel Joel, starting in 2018 and completing construction in 2021. The first phase will comprise of two five hectare semi-closed glasshouses. The semi-closed technology provides dramatic savings in energy consumption, improved utilisation of supplemental carbon dioxide, and a more stable and uniform internal environment. Because the glasshouse is effectively a closed system, the crop can be insulated from pests and diseases. The glasshouses will also be equipped with a supplemental, variable spectrum LED lighting system from California. In addition to enhanced yield, variable spectrum LED lighting allows the grower to influence fruit quality and other characteristics.
The Joel Joel site is adjacent to the Bulgana Green Power Hub. The Bulgana project is 220 megawatt windfarm which, together with battery storage capacity, will provide power to the Nectar Farms operation in addition to supplying the grid. This means that the Nectar Farms operations will be operating entirely off the grid.
The completed facility will provide over 350 permanent full time direct jobs, effectively creating a new industry for the Wimmera. With the completion of the Western Highway upgrade, Joel Joel will be two hours from Tullamarine, the perishable freight hub of the south-eastern Australia.
- Stephen Sasse, principal, Alpheus Advisory Pty Ltd