Home' Grower : April 2012 Contents The South Australian Grower -- April 2012
South Australian hydroponic tomato producer and Nuffield scholar Hieu
Ly says Australian growers would do well to approach the industry with a
THE largest greenhouse in the
southern hemisphere has been
completed at Two Wells.
Responding to a significant
increase in market demand for
quality Australian tomatoes, South
Australia's leading truss tomato
producer d'VineRipe invested $30
million in the Stage 2 expansion
of its world-class facility.
The facility will produce 10,000
tonnes of tomatoes each year --
about 10 times the amount
possible from an equivalent area
of open fields.
The $65-million greenhouse
spanning 17 hectares utilises
leading-edge pad and fan climate-
Stage 1, an 8ha development
which entered full production in
late 2007, was at the time
Australia's largest glasshouse to
be built all in one stage.
d'VineRipe general manager
Leon Maree said Stage 2 had
proceeded because of "the
operational performance of Stage
1 and increasing demand".
"Stage 2 incorporates several
minimal design improvements
acquired from managing Stage 1.
The most significant is the use of
specialised glass on the roof
which filters UV rays and allows
useful light to reach the plants
and boost growth," Leon said.
Other new features include the
implementation of wind tunnels or
pad corridors between glasshouses
to prevent hot-wind damage.
The facility also incorporates a
co-generation plant that runs on
natural gas. Carbon-dioxide is
pumped back into the glasshouse
to boost plant growth and water
is sourced from Adelaide's waste
water supply through the Bolivar
water reuse project.
Stage 2 features some of the
world's most advanced
technologies and operating
systems and will double the
facility's size, infrastructure and
d'VineRipe is a joint venture
between fresh food marketing
company Perfection Fresh Australia
and diverse investment company
The Victor Smorgon Group.
The glasshouse facility
comprises 90,000 panes of
strengthened glass on the roof
and 30,000 panes on the walls,
each measuring 1.8 metres by
1.2m -- the largest-sized panels
used in glasshouse construction
A fully closed watering system
collects rainwater from the roof,
nets and treats the water, and
reuses it on the crop. The
evaporative cooling system
maintains an optimum
temperature between 24C degrees
and 28C degrees.
An automated bulk packing line
can produce 25 five-kilogram
trays a minute while a pre-
packing line can process 84
packs of 500 grams a minute.
d'VineRipe doubles-up size
d'VineRipe's tomato glasshouse features some of the world's
most advanced construction technologies.
Hydroponics lead growth
saw huge yields, and many young
growers in the industry," he said.
"Massive farms of 10 to 20
hectares are normal there.
"In our area, it's all about lifestyle.
We just want to make a living, send
our kids to school and pay the
mortgage, whereas in Europe it is a
real business -- even to the point
where greenhouses are focusing on
producing energy and agriculture is
their second business."
My Ly says Australian growers
looking to convert to hydroponics
need to focus on taking control of
"It is becoming a business role for
a lot of growers and I don't think
they're used to that," he said.
"To continue growing in the soil
is going to be too difficult for many
people in the future, so unless, for
example, young growers get into
the industry, we're going to lag
behind the rest of Australia and the
rest of the world."
My Ly said that when moving to
hydroponics, it is probably better
to forget everything a grower had
learnt before because it was a com-
pletely different way of growing.
"It's all about control, it's all
about climate and it's all about
nutrition," he said.
"In the soil there are advantages
because if you make a mistake you
can work around but if you make a
mistake in the hydroponic process
you can lose a lot of money."
Mr Ly says that while he has
learnt plenty about the world's
best-practise in hydroponics, les-
sons on general business structure
have been equally rewarding.
"The Nuffield experience has
been a huge difference," he said.
"Going overseas and seeing how
all agricultural businesses work,
not just in my field but in all fields,
has been a big learning experience.
"You try to bring it back and
incorporate what suit you into
into your business.
"The program has changed my
life, the way I approach business
and the way I approach agricul-
Nuffield Australia is an organisa-
tion which provides opportunities
to Australian farmers between the
ages of 28 and 40 to travel the
globe investigating a research
topic important to them and
Applications for 2013 open on
Details: www.nuffield.com.au. Follow us
on twitter @nuffieldaust
By PAULA THOMPSON
growers can't afford to
ignore hydroponics if they
want to keep up with the rest of
the world, according to Nuffield
scholar Hieu Minh Ly, who is a
hydroponic tomato grower in
Virginia, South Australia.
"It's such a huge industry now,
with five per cent of growers in
our area converting to the system
every year," he said.
"It's one of the growth indus-
tries in agriculture in Australia
and something that we really need
to jump on to now because the
country is lagging behind the rest
of the world."
With the support of National
Vegetable R&D Levy and
Horticulture Australia, he decided
to use his Nuffield scholarship to
study methods of conversion from
soil-grown crops such as tomatoes,
capsicums and cucumbers to those
hydroponically grown in protected
environments such as greenhouses.
Mr L y's drive to translate world
best-practise for hydroponics into
his own work comes from a belief
in the efficiency of the system.
"With hydroponics, we can grow
pretty much throughout the
year," he said.
"It's much more controlled, so
growers have to take control of
their businesses and crops; and
chemical usage is down. This is
the way a grower can move on
from traditional soil-based crops."
His research itinerary centred
mainly on Europe and Asia, with
the primary destination being
"Holland is the number-one in
the world and I don't think any-
one can touch them in terms of
yields and quality," Mr Ly said.
"I also went to Germany, south-
ern France, Japan and Singapore,
where their style of operating was
Mr Ly said the biggest impres-
sion European growers left on
him was their mindset. Rather
than just trying to, in his words,
'make a buck', hydroponics was
serious business to them.
"I saw producers growing in
phenomenal ways in Europe. I
When moving to
hydroponics, it is
best to forget what
you have learnt in
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