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The South Australian Grower – December 2011/January 2012
Semi-hydro choice bears fruit for SA
❏ Stories By JAMIE-LEE OLDFIELD
TOMATO growers in the Adelaide
Plains region are improving yields
by converting their greenhouses
into semi-hydroponic systems.
The low-cost, less technically demanding
method is being adapted by an increasing
number of farmers in the area and their
choice is bearing fruit.
South Australian Research and
Development Institute extension officer
Tony Burfield said that while conversion to
the semi-hydroponic method was
producing tomatoes of a better quality, it
relied heavily on solid management.
“Those who manage their systems well
are clearly seeing better results – if you are
prepared to put the effort, it is a great way
to make more money,” Mr Burfield said.
“It really puts a grower’s commitment to
the test but if you do it right it is worth
the extra work.
“Alternative methods, such as improving
the soil, do not require as much outlay, may
open growers up to a niche market, of fer
more flexibility and still improve the business.
“This said, if you opt for semi-
hydroponics and you do it right, you will
make more money.”
Growers and industry members have in
the past been cautious about changing to
the semi-hydroponic system because of
concerns about a lack of technical support
SARDI, in collaboration with leading
growers and consultants and funding from
Horticulture Australia Limited, is putting
together a program to help growers make
wise management decisions about
Under the program, demonstration sites
in the Adelaide Plains and Murray Bridge
areas will provide technical support to
growers and help them make informed
decisions on planting, management and
One of the sites is at Freshway Farms
which has two blocks of semi-hydroponic
greenhouses on its Virginia property. On
its first open day, more than 50 growers
Improved yields on solid business management as farmers go the
came to take a look at the crops.
Freshway Farms consultant Keith Webb
attributed the interest to farmers who,
unlike those in government departments
with no hands-on farming experience, own
and manage the demonstration site.
“The demonstration farm is about
growers being able to come and see the
techniques used, and showing how it can
be used as a stepping stone to even more
infrastructure,” Mr Webb said.
The hydroponic support program is
headed by SARDI Senior Research Officer-
Horticulture Pathology Dr Kaye Ferguson
and involves the creation of an educational
DVD, semi-hydro ‘do’s & don’ts’ and
■ Virginia a growing national hub for
■ Demonstration sites teach best-prac-
tices, share knowledge
■ SARDI creating hydroponic support
program with DVDs, factsheets
☛ AT A GLANCE
• South Australia produces about 14,715,000 tonnes of fresh tomatoes a year –
6.28 per cent of Australian production – and 93000t of processed tomatoes (0.06pc)
• In 2003-04, SA tomatoes made about $23000 in exports. This increased
significantly to more than $2m in 2004-05 .
• Of more than 400 SA farmers producing greenhouse tomatoes, about five are
high-tech and 40 low to medium-tech.
Semi-hydroponics uses a non-soil growing medium and a variety of irrigation techniques.
This picture, and the one on the cover page, are courtesy of SARDI project ‘Introduction to
Basic Hydroponics’ and Dr Kaye Ferguson.
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