Australia – Tomatoes Get High-Tech Treatment

A STATE-of-the-art computerised system has been installed at Blackmans Point where a new 3000 square metre greenhouse is embracing new technology to grow hydroponic tomatoes. Some 7000 tomato plants were planted recently and are being computer-control fed and watered every hour between 7am and 10pm with each plant getting exactly the right amount or nutrients.

Part-owner Anthony Sarks said the operation was “controlled environment agriculture” which wastes no water and uses up to 75 per cent less water than the open field system and where nutrients are recirculated. “This packaging shed contains the most up-to -date technology in Australia at present,” Mr Sarks said. “We believe this is the agriculture of the future. It is more efficient and environmentally sustainable.”

The new equipment is Australian-made for Australian conditions, but based on Dutch technology. The greenhouse has double-skin plastic walls with roof vents to control circulation. Pipes circulate hot water at ground level and they double as running rails for work trolleys that run up and down the rows of tomatoes. A glass panel in the packing shed wall enables people to see what’s going on in the greenhouse without going in. Mr Sarks said the only function the computer did not complete was picking. The computer control is constantly monitoring and can be adjusted according to needs. “We would like to think that what we are doing here would enco-urage other operations. “Many crops can be grown in a similar way, but not in the same shed as tomatoes.”

Tooling Up for Hydroponics

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