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PRACTICAL

PONICS & GREENHOUSES www.hydroponics.com.au

The Commercial Growers’ Magazine

2017

JULY

ISSUE 181

GROWING TOGETHER: hydroponics learning program FROM TANK TO TABLE

DESERT BLOOMS

Worldwide growth in aquaponics

Hydroponics a priority in Abu Dhabi

MELTING OF THE ICE

EUREKA

“Doomsday seed vault” under threat

Cucumber grower finds biological winner


Published by: Casper Publications Pty Ltd (A.B.N. 67 064 029 303)

PO Box 225, Narrabeen, NSW 2101 Tel: (02) 9905-9933 info@hydroponics.com.au

Managing Editor Christine Brown-Paul c.brown.paul@gmail.com

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welcomes freelance contributions and letters with a hydroponic, greenhouse o r I P M f o c u s . Photographic material should be good quality colour prints or transparencies, clearly named and captioned. Copy is also accepted by email or disk in Word format. Hi-resolution digital images are accepted – .tif, .jpg, .eps or .pdf format. No responsibility is accepted for loss or damage to unsolicited material. © Copyright Casper Publications Pty Ltd 2017. All material in Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses is copyright. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the Publisher.

www.hydroponics.com.au ISSN 2202-1485

From The Editor

Keeping Food Production Sustainable

G

rowing food that is healthy for us all has become increasingly difficult across the globe. Ensuring that our agricultural systems are sustainable is an important goal many are trying to achieve. Gaining in popularity, both commercially and at home, are hydroponics and aquaponics. Using these systems can offer many benefits compared to conventional agriculture. Many of our stories in this issue share a common theme of sustainability and how hydroponic and aquaponic techniques can offer viable alternatives to food production around the world, providing low-cost, sustainable food sources. Our lead story, From tank to table focuses on three case studies from different parts of the globe, each using aquaponics as a food source on domestic and commercial scales. Elsewhere, we look at how hydroponics and organic farming are becoming a priority in Abu Dhabi with an increasing number of local growers recognising the benefits while in the US we trace the story of an innovative hydroponic gardening program that is winning over students in Boston College. Closer to home, our story, Eureka describes how an experienced head grower of one of Australia’s largest mini cucumber operations recently had a Eureka moment that has delivered significant productivity gains and thousands of dollars in savings for one large growing enterprise. Still on the topic of growing cucumbers hydroponically, our update from Apex Greenhouses looks at how the company is currently putting the finishing touches on a 5ha cucumber facility for Family Fresh Farms in NSW. Lastly, our regular feature from Dr Mike Nicols – The final word – completes our sustainability theme as he investigates how water can be used more economically in New Zealand, especially through increased use of hydroponic practices. These and other stories await your reading pleasure! Do you have a story for us? We welcome stories for publication with a focus on hydroponics, greenhouse, IPM, crop management and horticulture lighting technology. Let’s hear your ideas. Enjoy this issue! Christine Brown-Paul Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017. 3


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TRADE DIRECTORY Bioponic Grow Systems ..........35 Bluelab ...............................13 Cultilene .............................53 Ecogrow ..............................26 Exfoliators.......................... 67 Extrusion Technologies Int .....77 GOTAFE ...............................17

& GREENHOUSES ISSUE 181 :: JULY 2017 :: THE COMMERCIAL GROWERS’ MAGAZINE

Features From tank to table . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Increasing numbers of home growers worldwide are turning to aquaponics. Melting of the ice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Climate change threatens the world’s supply of seeds in Norway’s “Doomsday Vault.” Growing together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 A US hydroponics learning program is winning over students. Desert blooms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Hydroponics and organic farming are becoming a priority in Abu Dhabi.

GreenLife Structures ...............4

Vale: Cliff (Goughie) Gough . . . . . . . . . 76 Goodbye to master hydroponics gardener Cliff Gough, aged 89.

Haygrove Tunnels .................15

Practical

Graeme Smith Consulting .........7

Heliospectra ........................23 Hoogendoom ........................27 ICI Industries .......................51 Pacer Profiles ......................68 Pestech ................................9 Powerplants ...................... IFC Priva ..................................11 Transplant Systems...............69

Melting of the ice

Fields of green . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 In Queensland, a hemp grower is now executive director of a medical marijuana and hydroponics supplier.

Eureka: cucumber biological winner

Apex Greenhouses: two years on . . . 48 Apex Greenhouses is finalising a 5ha cucumber facility for Family Fresh Farms in NSW. Eureka: cucumber grower finds biological winner . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Significant productivity gains and savings for cucumber grower. The final word . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 Dr Mike Nicols says water savings can be made in New Zealand through increased use of hydroponics.

From tank to table

Disclaimer The information contained in this magazine whether in editorial matter or in feature articles or in advertisements is not published on the basis that the Publisher accepts or assumes liability or responsibility to any reader of the magazine for any loss or damage resulting from the correctness of such information.

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Departments From the Editor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 News & Products . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Reader Inquiries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Cover: Globally, there is increasing interest in learning about hydroponics for sustainable food production.

Fields of green

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017. 5


AUSSIE PLANT BIOSECURITY GETS A $21M TECH INJECTION Australia is on track to adopt some of the most sophisticated plant pest surveillance technologies in the world after Horticulture Innovation Australia (Hort Innovation) secured a Federal Government grant and coinvestor funding to deliver a $21M plant biosecurity push. The $6.8M Rural R&D for Profit grant will complement more than $14M in investment across the seven plant Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) and partners such as the CSIRO, universities and state government agencies. Vegetable industry body AUSVEG and Plant Health Australia are also key collaborators. Hort Innovation chief executive John Lloyd said the new project, which will begin in July, will further

safeguard Australian agriculture from pathogen and pest incursions. “The early detection and identification of any new pathogen or pest is critical, and a pre-emptive approach is vital to control,” he said. “Pests and diseases can devastate growers, affect the supply of timber, food and fibre products and hinder trade opportunities. “This new $21M initiative will utilise next-generation technologies to build on Australia’s reputation for offering clean, green plant products.” The five-year project will see the construction and establishment of eight state-of-the-art mobile pest monitoring hubs, including a suite of smart surveillance traps that capture airborne fungal spores and insects and reference them against GPS, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction data. That data will then be fed real-time

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into cloud-based system AUSPestCheck – a national database that is already being used by State and Territory governments. It will then be distributed to producers, governments and industry groups in the form of immediate alerts, pest forecasts and general reports to support fast, informed and collaborative decision-making. Mr Lloyd said these pilotmonitoring hubs would be positioned on the edges of incursion areas to prevent the spread of threats, and also in new pest and disease zones to determine the breadth of any problems. They will also be employed for spot checks in pestfree regions, with the data gathered used to support market access. “This new initiative will utilise nextgeneration technologies to allow producers to receive timely and accurate information about pests


and pathogens in their region, help them with management decisions, reduce resistance and demonstrate pest-free status to export markets. Throughout the life of the project, producers will be trained to access the data system, and shown how to use it to improve farm productivity and reduce farm input costs.

TO THE MOON AND BACK Bumblebees are on track to become the first in space! While the bumblebee Bombus impatiens is doing a great job on North American soil, its flight continues in another direction. NASA is conducting scientific research using Bombus impatiens to contribute to food supply in space. As well as providing nourishment on earth, plants could provide a balanced diet on the Moon or Mars. Environmental and atmospheric conditions differ there, compared to here on earth, so growing fruit and vegetables is not likely to be easy. Although spacemen opt for space food, research suggests that several fruit and vegetable species, like tomatoes and melons, might grow under reduced pressure. For

successful production, natural pollinators will be required and that is where our bumblebees come into play – or rather into space. With research central to Biobest’s ethos, Biobest Canada jumped at the opportunity to provide NASA with bumblebees for this unique and revolutionary research. “This work has already proved that our little creatures continue to do a good job under conditions of reduced pressure - one of the difficulties they will encounter in

space,” said a Biobest spokesperson. “While the early signs are encouraging, there is still plenty more research to come. For the moment, you won’t find yourself spotting bumblebees with your stargazer, but who knows what the future will bring. Yuri Gagarin might be the first man is space, but we at Biobest are confident that our bumblebees will be the first to fly into space.” More information at: www.biobestgroup.com

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017. 7


LIVING VS FAKE GREENWALLS There is no doubt that the popularity of greenwalls has significantly grown over the past few years. However, Mark Paul, horticulturist and Australian greenwall pioneer warns the hidden dangers of going fake versus living. Mark Paul, founder of The Greenwall Company says, “Although the aesthetic of a fake greenwall can be appealing and the faux plant choice has expanded over the years, there are a number of things to consider. “Aside from the lack of health benefits, they are a fire hazard due to the chemicals they are treated with and the dust they collect. The same dust can cause an increase in allergies, especially when placed in closed office spaces.” “After a number of media reported ‘greenwall fires’, all in fake plastic walls, many commercial property managers have banned them and had existing ones removed,” said Mark.

The benefits of a living greenwall include: • Improved air quality in urban environments – Living walls will actually filter out harmful pollutants [VOCs] and dust rather than attracting them. • Aesthetically appealing – greenwalls can be designed as a standout feature or blend into the natural environment. • Lower power bills – Living greenwalls help to regulate the temperature of the building they are installed on. • Sound insulation – Living greenwalls can absorb up to 10 decibels of sound, which is why they are a great option for office environments. • Lower maintenance – Living greenwalls are fitted with an automated irrigation system enabling them to essentially look after themselves. “Sustainability is at the core of what we do. The plant species are carefully selected for our green roof and greenwall projects. We continue

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to propagate and contract grow many of these specialised species as most of them are commercially unavailable in Australian horticulture. In additional all of our walls are made from 94 per cent recycled materials that would be otherwise destined for Australian landfill,” said Mark. About The Greenwall Company: The Greenwall Company is the pioneer of greenwalls and green roofs in Australia. Founded by Mark Paul, a horticulturist, designer and advocate for greening cities, The Greenwall Company uses award winning design techniques across both residential and commercial projects, bringing greenwalls to a new level of integration and sophistication within the urban environment. Their vision is to reclaim the urban environment, wrapping facades of buildings with epiphytic and lithophytic plants creating living, breathing architectural function. More information at: www.greenwall.com.au


TASMANIAN FRUIT GROWERS WANT CONSUMERS TO BUY LOCAL Tasmania’s fruit growers have called on consumers to buy local after another recall of frozen berries over possible links to hepatitis A. Food Standards Australia New Zealand recalled 300 gram packs of Creative Gourmet Mixed Frozen Berries recently. The berries are

believed to be sourced from China and Canada and processed in China. Fruit Growers Tasmania business development manager Phil Pyke advised berry buyers to pay more attention to their produce. “Even if grown in New Zealand, the US or Chile, fruit can still be sent to China for processing. People still shop without paying attention to where their food comes from. After

the last [frozen berry] scare one would think Australians would prefer fresh Australian produce, but their trolleys say another thing,” Mr Pyke said. “We’ve got almost 12 months’ supply across Australia, so we’re rarely without strawberries, blueberries and raspberries in the fresh market.” http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/

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COLES BLAMING HIGH TOMATO PRICES ON WEATHER Retailer Coles has posted signs in its stores associating supply issues of gourmet tomatoes with heavy rain in Queensland. However, horticulture lobby group Growcom’s chief advocate Rachel Mackenzie said that did not make sense. “It’s pretty straightforward. At this time of year tomatoes do not generally come out of the Bowen region, so there is no way, logically, that Cyclone Debbie can be impacting on availability,” she said. Ms Mackenzie said Growcom had checked supply with market information service Ausmarket, which provides data on trading at the Brisbane Fresh Produce Markets. “It looks like supply is pretty much consistent with previous years at this time, in fact slightly higher, so it’s obviously not a supply issue per se, but we need to break that down a little bit,” she said. “Some people in the know have indicated that it is to do with quality, and perhaps there’s not an adequate supply of high-quality tomatoes. “Really you’d have to ask Coles why

they are claiming it’s Cyclone Debbie when only a very small percentage of tomatoes come out of the Bowen region at this time of year.” Coles has disputed that it linked bad weather with prices, saying the signs in its stores referred to heavy rain and supply issue, not Cyclone Debbie and higher prices.

PLANT REPORT REVEALS NEW DISCOVERIES, CLIMATE SURVIVORS Almost 2,000 new species of plant have been discovered in the past year, according to a report by The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Many have potential as food crops, medicines or sources of timber. However, scientists say some of the newly discovered plants are already at risk of extinction. They are developing new ways to speed up the discovery and classification of plants to help safeguard them for future generations. The second annual assessment of the State of the World’s Plants by scientists at Kew found that 1,730 plants were recorded as being new to science in 2016.

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They include 11 new species from Brazil of the Manihot shrub known for its starchy root, cassava. Seven species of the South African plant best known for red bush or rooibos tea were discovered, of which six are already threatened with extinction. Other discoveries include new relatives of aloe vera, widely used in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. Prof Kathy Willis, director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said the new discoveries hold “huge promise” for the future. “It’s really important to find these new species because they may well hold the genetic code - or the key to more resilient food crops from pests and pathogens and climate change into the future,” she said. “If we lose those crops or plants that provide really important natural capital for human well-being - so for example plants that draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide, plants that maintain and enhance our soils, plants that are important for fuel, for medicines, for fuels - if we lose those, that’s the end of humanity.”


LOCAL SEED DEVELOPER CARVING NICHE OUT OF LOCAL VEGETABLE MARKET A small Sydney-based vegetable seeds developer is hoping a strong focus on the local market will help it stand out in a highly concentrated market. Around 80 per cent of the global seeds market is locked up by just two companies, US giant Monsanto and its Swiss rival Syngenta. Just recently, Monsanto shareholders approved a merger with German biotechnology, chemicals and pharmaceuticals company Bayer AG. While the deal still needs regulatory approval, but its just one of three major mergers in the sector. Australia’s vegetable growers mostly rely on seeds from the larger companies, which leaves the resulting produce vulnerable to Australia’s harsh conditions and unique diseases. Abundant Produce, based out of Sydney University, is breeding tomato, cucumber, zucchini, eggplant, capsicum and pumpkins specifically for the local market. “Australia only represents three

per cent of the sales of these large companies that provide the seeds,” explains CEO Tony Crimmins. “They’re not actually going to be doing any research to make sure that diseases in Australia won’t exist within that plant species. “Whilst Abundant actually will be looking at those diseases because our priority market is to provide back to Australia.” Mr Crimmins said many successful Australian seeds companies have already been acquired by the big two, so it was important for Australian growers to have a choice. “At lunch recently I had carrots, potatoes and asparagus on my plate. Over 60 per cent of that product on the plate was owned by two

companies; Monsanto and Syngenta.” Mr Crimmins said a recent outbreak of cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) was an example of the benefits local seeds provide. “At the moment, Australian farmers receive a lot of seeds that are actually bred in Holland, but they come out to Australia, they grow, an Australian-based disease breaks out and the plants are not resistant,” he said. “We use natural selection to make sure the cucumbers we grow are resistant to native and known diseases for crop. “So if any of the plants we’re breeding have CGMMV, we’ll remove them from the breeding pool.” Source: abc.net.au

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SCIENTISTS IDENTIFY HUNDREDS OF ROCKET GENES WITH AN UNKNOWN FUNCTION Wild rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia L.) has a great value in the fresh-cut industry thanks to its nutritional and sensory properties. Nonetheless, the molecular mechanisms that confer harvested leaves their tolerances to pre- and post-harvest stress during processing and throughout their shelf life have never been studied. Researchers from the University of Milan and Cardiff, the same ones involved in the EU Quafety project between 2012 and 2015, conducted a first transcriptomic analysis of rocket through the assembly of de novo RNA sequences, functional annotation and stress-induced expression analysis of 33,874 transcripts. Rocket was subjected to various stresses. Pre-harvest stresses were increased salinity, heat and nitrogen starvation, while post-harvest stresses were cold, dehydration, dark and wounding. Transcriptomic changes were

analysed 24 hours after the stress was applied. Transcription factors and the genes involved in plant growth regulation, autophagy, senescence and glucosinolate metabolism were the most affected mechanisms. “We identified hundreds of genes with an unknown function but which only expressed in stressful conditions. They supplied us with important information to study stress response. Dehydration and wounding had the strongest effects on the transcriptome and the various stresses induced changes in the expression of genes correlated to overlapping groups of hormones. These data will enable the development of approaches to improve stress tolerance, quality and shelf-life with direct applications in the fresh-cut industry.” Source: Cavaiuolo M., Cocetta G., Spadafora N.D., Müller C.T., Rogers H.J., Ferrante A., ‘Gene expression analysis of rocket salad under pre-harvest and postharvest stresses: A transcriptomic resource for Diplotaxis tenuifolia’, 2017,

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TWO NEW CASES OF BLUEBERRY RUST FOUND IN TASMANIA Two new cases of blueberry rust have been detected in North-West Tasmania, leaving the state’s blueberry growers concerned about the disease’s impact on their fruit. Biosecurity Tasmania’s website said the disease was detected at the

North-West properties in March 2017, but an update on the blueberry rust threat was only posted this month. A Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment department spokesman said the new cases of the disease were “near the first site”. Quarantine measures are continuing at these sites. Turners Marsh organic blueberry farmer, Kent Mainwaring, is concerned that Biosecurity Tasmania’s efforts to control the disease in Tasmania would impact his ability to sell fruit to the organic market. “We are certified organic and 99 per cent of our fruit is sent directly to the mainland, so that market is important to us,” Mr Mainwaring said. “What’s concerning to us is that if we have to treat our fruit it is no longer organic. I would always be able to sell [my blueberries] as conventional fruit, but it’s not as lucrative,” he said.


Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017. 13


QUEENSLAND VEGETABLE FARMER NAMED INDUSTRY’S GROWER OF THE YEAR A Queensland vegetable farmer who grows lettuce varieties and broccoli at Gatton has been named the 2017 AUSVEG Grower of the Year. Anthony Staatz of Koala Farms received the prestigious award, sponsored by Syngenta, in front of growers and industry stakeholders from across the country at the recent Hort Connections 2017 in Adelaide, AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside said that the award recognised Mr Staatz’s outstanding work across all aspects of vegetable production, including his drive to provide his employees with innovative technologies and effective and efficient systems to improve productivity. “Anthony’s enthusiasm for adopting

innovative growing practices is renowned throughout the industry, and he’s leading the way in establishing new best practices for the vegetable industry,” said Mr Whiteside. AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s vegetable and potato industries, worth around $3.7 billion to the national economy. The Grower of the Year Award is supported by Syngenta, which develops seeds and crop protection products for growers worldwide, and brings together the best in global agricultural research and development to help Australian growers to manage risk, drive productivity and to realise their crop’s potential. Based in Queensland, Mr Staatz is the fifth generation of his family to farm in the Lockyer Valley and

Anthony Staatz (L) receives his Grower of the Year award.

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grows vegetables in a variety of locations to give the business climatic variability that ensures it can supply vegetables all year round. Mr Staatz has also implemented a human resources program, specifically designed to suit the training needs of the business, to help foster a workplace environment that promotes a culture of effective teamwork to achieve the best possible outcomes for both the business and its employees. The Syngenta Grower of the Year Award commends outstanding achievement across all aspects of vegetable and potato production, including growing, environmental management, staff management and quality of produce. “The Grower of the Year Award is the highest accolade that can be bestowed on a member of our industry, so to reach such a level of recognition is an impressive achievement,” said Mr Whiteside. “Anthony is constantly looking for new technologies and practices to adopt on-farm in an effort to increase efficiencies and improve productivity of his farming methods. He’s a great example of the value that adopting the latest innovations can offer growing operations, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for Anthony and the team at Koala Farms.” Mr Staatz also received high praise from Growcom, the peak representative body for Queensland production horticulture, of which Koala Farms is a member. “We commend Anthony and his team for their sophisticated, professional and innovative processes and we congratulate them for this well-deserved award,” said Growcom Chief Advocate Rachel Mackenzie.


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TEN PER CENT FRUIT & VEG SUBSIDY COULD PREVENT 150K DEATHS In the US, national dietary policies could help significantly reduce or postpone deaths from cardiovascular disease, suggests a new study published by PLOS Medicine.  The study found a national fiscal policy that subsidised the cost of fruits and vegetables by 10 per cent could prevent or postpone 150,500 lives over 15 years, while a targeted policy to subsidise fruits and

vegetables by 30 per cent for participants of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would reduce cardiovascular disease deaths by 35,100 over the same time period. Researchers also examined the potential effects of a national mass media campaign and a national policy to increase tax sugarsweetened beverages, raising prices by 10 per cent, but found these policies would only reduce cardiovascular deaths by 25,800 and 31,000, respectively. They concluded

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that a combined approach would be the most effective: A fruit and vegetable subsidy would save the most lives and a SNAP-targeted policy would help reduce socioeconomic disparities in health most. “Our findings highlight the potentially powerful effects of fiscal measures targeting diet in the US,” the study authors wrote. “Dietary policies could potentially reduce cardiovascular disease, death and associated disparities.” source: beckershospitalreview.com


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VEGGIES ‘BEET’ TANNING FOR A HEALTHY GLOW Australians looking to achieve a healthy glow this winter would do well to put away the fake tan and reach for some fresh vegetables instead, according to new research conducted by the University of Newcastle. The research has found young Australians believe that skin colouration shows better overall health and, importantly, that the glow gained from eating fresh fruit and vegetable produce is considered to be healthier and more appealing than melanin generated by sun exposure. The participants in the study, which predominantly consisted of women, perceived that facial skin colouration with higher carotenoid content and decreased melanin looked healthier than the other available options when evaluating facial images of young adults. “This research shows that the

carotenoids in fresh vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and leafy greens not only act as an antioxidant and aid in preventing cancer, but also contribute to healthier skin,” said AUSVEG National Manager – Communications Shaun Lindhe. “As part of the study, participants were able to manipulate images of faces to adjust the colouration to make the faces appear as healthy as possible. When participants manipulated the levels of both melanin and carotenoid colouration, they added significantly more carotenoid colouration and removed significantly more melanin.” Carotenoids accumulate in humans through fresh vegetable consumption and contribute to the yellowness of skin in Caucasians, meaning that slightly yellower skin is a mark of greater intake of fruit and vegetables. AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s vegetable and

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potato growers. Previous research from Macquarie University published in 2016 found that sweat samples taken from men with higher carotenoid accumulation in their skin smelt more appealing to women, resulting in a scent with more “floral, fruity, sweet and medicinal” qualities. “Increasing your vegetable consumption can pay dividends across your entire lifestyle, as well as being associated with a huge range of health benefits,” said Mr Lindhe. “We already know that consuming the recommended amount of daily serves of vegetables has health and nutritional value, and that eating fresh vegetables is a vital part of a balanced diet, but it’s great that research is continuing to find even more benefits to eating veggies. “So if you want to look great, smell better and feel fantastic, the best way is to eat plenty of fresh vegetables.”


ROYAL FLORAHOLLAND AND FLORAXCHANGE JOIN FORCES TO CREATE SINGLE DIGITAL GROWERS’ PLATFORM Digitising the floriculture sector is set for a serious boost now that Royal FloraHolland and FloraXchange have joined forces. The global marketplace for flowers and plants took a controlling interest in the FloraXchange platform. This cooperation marks the starting point of the creation of one single digital platform for growers. The platform will result in global trading in the floriculture sector to become more accessible and simpler, and hasten the process of much-needed innovation. For the past few years, the two companies have been working separately at digitising the trade between growers and their customers, each using its own systems. As a result, growers often have to enter the same data twice, which is undesirable. The cooperation will lead to an integration, step by step, of all

modules a grower uses from both FloraXchange and FloraMondo. The best modules from both systems will be used to create a new global platform where growers can manage their product offerings, orders and logistics. This goes for growers of flowers and growers of plants, as well as members and non-members of Royal FloraHolland. The platform will be called Floriday.io. Growers can access different trade channels via Floriday.io, such as FloraXchange and FloraMondo. Eventually, a grower should have one single dashboard with which he can sell his products in several ways, be it through the auction clock or direct trade. The cooperation between the two companies will take the shape of a joint venture. This joint venture won’t only set up Floriday.io, but will also seek collaboration with exporting companies in order to further develop the FloraXchange channel. The plan is to turn it into the ultimate channel for trading

companies that conduct direct trade with growers. An important goal is to improve the interface between FloraXchange and the systems of the exporting companies. Royal FloraHolland, on the other hand, is going to further improve FloraMondo. This trade channel will focus on the spot market for both flowers and plants. “Ever since we founded FloraXchange we’ve been striving for more efficiency in the floriculture sector by improving the link-up between grower and buyer,” said Martijn van Andel, Head of Business Development of FloraXchange. “A year ago, we decided to change course and become a more open organisation, in the interest of floriculture as a whole. The talks we held with Royal FloraHolland have convinced us that the interests of the exporting companies are safeguarded too. We feel this is a requirement if you want to significantly improve the sector.” More information at: www.floriday.io or www.floraxchange.nl

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BEE BUZZES COULD HELP DETERMINE HOW TO SAVE THEIR DECREASING POPULATION According to recent studies, declines in wild and managed bee populations threaten the pollination of flowers in more than 85 per cent of flowering plants, and 75 per cent of agricultural crops worldwide. Widespread and effective monitoring of bee populations could lead to better management; however, tracking bees is tricky and costly. Now, a research team led by the University of Missouri has developed an inexpensive acoustic listening system using data from small microphones in the field to monitor bees in flight. The study, published in PLOS ONE, shows how farmers could use the technology to monitor pollination and increase food production. “Causes of pollinator decline are complex and include diminishing flower resources, habitat loss,

climate change, increased disease incidence and exposure to pesticides, so pinpointing the driving forces remains a challenge,” said Candace Galen, professor of biological science in the MU College of Arts and Science. “For more than 100 years, scientists have used sonic vibrations to monitor birds, bats, frogs and insects. We wanted to test the potential for remote monitoring programs that use acoustics to track bee flight activities.” First, the team analysed the characteristic frequencies – what musicians call the pitch – of bee buzzes in the lab. Then, they placed small microphones attached to data storage devices in the field and collected the acoustic survey data from three locations on Pennsylvania Mountain, Colorado, to estimate bumble bee activity. Using the data, they developed algorithms that identified and quantified the number of bee buzzes

20 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017

in each location and compared that data to visual surveys the team made in the field. In almost every instance, the acoustic surveys were more sensitive, picking up more buzzing bees. “Eavesdropping on the acoustic signatures of bee flights tells the story of bee activity and pollination services,” Galen said. “Farmers may be able to use the exact methods to monitor pollination of their orchards and vegetable crops and head off pollination deficits. Finally, global ‘citizen scientists’ could get involved, monitoring bees in their backyards.” Currently, using the algorithms developed in this study, the team is developing a smartphone app that could record buzz activity as well as document the bees photographically. Future studies could determine whether bees detect competitors by sound and whether flowers have chemical responses to bee buzzes, Galen said. http://journals.plos.org/plosone


SORTING SOFTNESS FOR BLUEBERRIES The BERRYWAY from MAF Industries offers a unique way of sorting blueberries. “The BERRYWAY optical sorting solution sorts on colour, external and internal defects, including softness, by using hyper-spectral cameras and LED solutions,” said Jeremy Berros – Business Development Director at MAF Industries. “The machine takes 56 pictures per piece of fruit. The quality of the softness is graded, which is the most important part of the quality sorting for fresh packing, and pertains to each individual blueberry’s degree of firmness/softness. “We can grade bloom coverage, stem detection, dirty berries, punctures, molds, scars, blemishes and softness, with over three cuts of softness,” said Mr Berros. “In terms of production, our target is to capture 10 per cent of your total berry packing by doing the grading right the first time, thus eliminating re-runs.” “With mechanical sorting, the blueberry bounces on the

mechanical keys. This means only a part of the berry is looked at, rather than the whole berry. This results in lots of berries being ejected, even though they’re potentially good berries. Mechanical sorting is less accurate than optical sorting. We look at the entire berry in optical sorting, because we’re looking at what’s under the skin of the berries. We bring the tools to the market to detect softness with an optical sorting machine. “Our main mechanical sorting competitors mostly works with manual grading. We not only propose a technological solution

featuring the latest technology, we also propose a financial solution so customers can make a choice in terms of investment. Our machine can guarantee a return on investment in less than three years on average for fresh pack to be financially consistent and efficient. We support our customers both technologically and financially,”

said Mr Berros. “The core business of the company is to provide fully integrated turnkey solution and in 2018, the peripheral equipment will also be made inhouse as well, so that we can be the only contact for our customers. “On the optical sorting market we know that at the moment we are able to do twice the capacity of our optical sorting competitors with our high-speed capacity BERRYWAY carrier,” he said. A world leader in complete fresh fruit and vegetable packing lines, MAF use the latest improvements and designs in electronic fruit sorting equipment, automated fruit and packaging equipment, and automated system controls. “Our vision includes being the world leader in service support and customer satisfaction along with providing the most technologically advanced complete fruit handling systems,” Mr Berros said. For more information contact: Jeremy Berros Maf Industries, Inc. P.O. Box 218 Traver, CA 93673 Tel: +1 559 897 2905 jberros@mafindustries.com www.maf-roda.com

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PHILIPS LIGHTING HORTICULTURE LED SOLUTIONS ADDS HORTICOOP SCANDINAVIA A/S TO ITS PARTNER NETWORK Philips Lighting, a global leader in lighting, has signed a partnership agreement with Horticoop Scandinavia A/S, a specialist supplier of technologies for greenhouse products and services to professional growers in Denmark. This partnership strengthens the offering of Philips Lighting Horticulture LED Solutions to meet the growing demand for LED lighting in Scandinavia. “Our decision to partner with Horticoop Scandinavia A/S is made after we recently completed our

first project in Denmark for Queen Flowers, a high quality producer and breeder of Kalanchoe,” explained Udo van Slooten, Managing Director of Philips Lighting Horticulture LED Solutions. “The market has good potential, especially in segments for potted plants and high wire crops. With potted plant growers, we can build on our experience completing numerous LED projects in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia. “There is a growing demand for LED lighting in this segment because it offers benefits such as radically higher propagation rates, faster rooting, lower energy costs and a rapid return on investment. As for high wire crops we have seen a long history of positive results

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already, like higher yields and better heat management resulting in more control over the crop,” he said. This latest partnership brings together Horticoop Scandinavia’s experience in selling and installing LED lighting at some of the largest Danish greenhouses with Philips Lighting`s innovative greenhouse lighting technologies. Together, the partners plan to expand the base of LED installations in Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia. For further information, contact: Daniela Damoiseaux, Global Marcom Manager Horticulture Philips Horticultural LED Lighting, Nederland Email: daniela.damoiseaux@philips.com  www.philips.com/horti 


SAVE TIME AND MONEY WITH THE LABOUR INSIGHT APP The largest breeding and propagation company of North America is benefiting from using the new Labour Insight app to monitor worked hours and produced quantities per worker at any time of the day. The new app offers many benefits including: • Self-service application • Pay-per-use cloud software • Team registration of labour and production • Labour and production figures all presented in one online dashboard • Time saving (users only need to register once) Wonderful Nurseries is North America’s largest grapevine nurseries, offering rootstock rootings, grafted grapevines, clones and more. For Wonderful Nurseries, labour costs are the largest part of its total running costs. During production season, no less than a few hundred workers are active in their California locations in Wasco

and Shafter. As teams at Wonderful Nurseries produce around 75,000 cuttings per day, insight into production and monitoring every individual worker’s performance is key. “That’s why Wonderful Nurseries has profited from the self-service app Labour Insight since 2016. It’s the indispensable tool team leaders use to track worked hours, activities and production by each worker. The software runs in the cloud, but labour and production can be registered even without a connection to Wi-Fi or 4G,” said a company supervisor. “At Wonderful Nurseries, we used to manually register the number of hours and quantities produced. A time-consuming job, however, since we’ve used Labour Insight, we’ve saved at least an hour per day per team leader. That’s time we can spend on production.” Wonderful Nurseries employs several team leaders, each of whom manages and guides their own team and is involved in their own part of

the labour process. “My team consists of 18 workers. The app is very easy to use. It didn’t take a lot of effort for me to learn how to use it. I’m very happy about it,” said a team leader. “Labour Insight works. Simple as that. It’s all so much more transparent now, so much clearer. And when you’re looking at a team production of 75,000 items a day, clarity is everything. “The analysis feature can be used to trace errors. Using the correction feature, it’s easy to quickly fix them. We use the export feature to copy the contents of the Excel file into a pre-defined pivot table. Labour Insight gives us insight into performance at any time. I would recommend it to other companies without hesitation,” he said. For more information contact: Nadia van der Valk Communications Advisor Horticulture T + 31 174 522 731 | M +31 6214 434 85   E nadia.van.der.valk@priva.nl   www.priva.com   Checkout to watch the video

www.priva.com /products/labour-insight

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PLANT EMPOWERMENT: OPTIMISING GROWTH CLIMATE BY STEERING THE PLANT’S BALANCES Growers need to get the maximum out of their plants and want better control of the cultivation process and higher crop yields. Next Generation Growing (NGG) is mostly associated with energy savings, although the primary aim is to optimise plant growth by improving the greenhouse climate conditions. Hoogendoorn has integrated the core elements into the iSii process computer, so growers can increase crop quality and yields with fewer resources such as water, energy and fertilisers. “Photosynthesis is the starting point to optimise plant growth. Light drives the photosynthesis process in which CO2 and water are photo chemically converted into

assimilates and oxygen. Assimilates are also referred to as carbohydrates or sugars. Assimilates provide the building blocks for growth and energy to keep the internal biochemical processes inside the plant going. So the first step for optimal growth is optimal production of assimilates, thus maximum utilisation of available sunlight or artificial lighting,” said a Hoogendoorn spokesperson. “The best way to optimise photosynthesis is to supply much light and to support the plant in keeping its energy and water balances in balance. In general this means: high CO2 level, high humidity and also high temperature, because this speeds up the photosynthesis process. “Hoogendoorn Growth Management focuses on the

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automation of your greenhouse, so you have full control over the growth of your plants. In order to grow according to NGG, you need to monitor the plant and learn how the plant functions. The growth process of a plant is mainly determined by three plant balances: the energy balance, the water balance and the assimilates balance,” said the spokesperson. “Under all conditions the plant aims to keep its three balances in balance, and that all physiological processes serve the plant to do so. With PlantVoice you monitor and control your plants to realise the best greenhouse climate, based on the plant’s needs. The software allows you to keep your plants ‘in balance’ which will bring you optimum production and quality. “The energy balance is the balance between the inputs and outputs of


energy to and from the plants. Since plants cannot produce heat, the energy balance consists of external energy sources. Based on the plant temperature measurement, the iSii calculates if there is plant stress. In this way when needed, corrective actions can quickly be taken. With PlantVoice you detect plant stress with a plant temperature sensor to avoid water and energy imbalance,” he said. The water balance is the balance between the input to and the output of water from the plants. Output of water is mainly caused by evaporation. In practice evaporation is mainly driven by radiation from the sun and artificial lighting. In order to keep the water balance in balance, the uptake of water from the root zone must equal at least evaporation rate. So to ensure efficient water availability, irrigation

needs to be aligned with evaporation energy received by the plant. “With the iSii process computer you can involve multiple energy sources and you are able to calculate the total amount of evaporation energy. In this way, you irrigate more accurate and more efficient. And it ensures that your plants receive the exact amount of water they need,” said the spokesperson. “The assimilates balance is the balance between the production and consumption of assimilates (glucose). To optimise growth it is essential that the production of assimilates is as high as possible. The use of assimilates needs to be stimulated to a maximum and the right balance between vegetative and generative growth needs to be kept. To accomplish this there must be a good ratio between light sum (production of assimilates) and

average temperature (usage of assimilates). In this way, a good balance between vegetable and generative growth is accomplished which results in the realisation of a healthy plant. “By adaption of the Next Generation Growing insights and by using the NGG climate control techniques hundreds of Dutch growers with many different cultivations report that they achieve positive results,” he said. “With NGG you realise a more homogeneous climate, better growth, a healthier crop with less pests and diseases and large energy savings. With Hoogendoorn products we empower growers to create a profitable business in a sustainable way.” For more information visit Hoogendoorn at Protected Cropping Australia, booth 34. www.hoogendoorn.nl/en

Visit P.R.E. Solutions & Hoogendoorn at Protected Cropping Australia (PCA) Booth 34 Hoogendoorn is known as the most innovative supplier of process automation systems in the horticultural industry. For more than 50 years, we have been striving towards the optimal greenhouse climate, increasing crop yields and managing costs and risks in greenhouse horticulture. For this, we deliver a variety of process computers, labor management systems and sensors.

Our systems are complemented with practically oriented user training, 24 hour helpdesk, and reliable local maintenance service. Together with our installations & service partner for Australia and New Zealand P.R.E. Solutions we focus on the automation of your greenhouse so you have full control over the growth of your plants.

www.hoogendoorn.nl www.presolutions.com.au

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Thanks for your letters

I have a few suggestions to help us better identify your problems, and hence give the most appropriate answers: • Some of your letters are very long. This is not a problem, but they will have to be edited down before publishing. • Please keep your actual questions short, and limit yourself to one, or at most two, questions. • Please comment as to whether you are a hobbyist or a commercial grower, and what crop you are growing. • Please describe at least the basics of your system, especially whether you recirculate or not. This is vital information, but often overlooked. Other useful information, if known, would be: media type, container size and depth, channel size, length and slope, solution volume per plant. • For irrigation and nutrient questions, please describe your typical irrigation pattern over a day, plus how and when your solutions are made up. If you have had any analysis done, such as your raw water, please attach a copy. • Include any extra information you wish. Rick Donnan

Address your inquiry to: PH&G PO Box 225, Narrabeen, NSW 2101 AUSTRALIA Int: +612 9905 9030 Email: info@hydroponics.com.au

Question. Should I set up a commercial aquaponic venture? I have been a hobby grower using aquaponics for several years. I have had reasonable success although also some difficulties. I am considering setting up a commercial operation and have been reading your answers and articles on planning for commercial hydroponic growing. Would you have any extra advice relating to aquaponics, possibly organic?

Answer I’ll answer this in general terms so it is useful to a wider range of readers. In simplest terms aquaponics is the integration of aquaculture (to grow fish) with hydroponics (to grow plants, usually vegetables).

Aquaculture There is a significant and increasing proportion of edible fish grown in aquaculture around the world, especially in China. Often aquaculture is thought of as sustainable method of getting fish, rather than depleting sea fish stocks. The reality is quite the opposite. What is the major food for fish being grown in aquaculture? It’s lower value fish and it takes about two kilograms of this fish food to produce a saleable kilogram of higher value aquaculturally grown fish, and higher still for carnivorous fish. This is obviously not sustainable. 28 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017

With the certain continued expansion of aquaculture there is an urgency in finding alternative non-wild fish sources of food for aquaculture. One of the most promising possibilities is to grow saw fly larvae. The flies lay eggs in vegetable waste and the eggs hatch to become larvae (maggots). These maggots grow quickly feeding on vegetable waste then can be separated and processed into high fat and protein content fish food. There has been a lot of research done on these larvae, resulting in the development of commercial scale production facilities, which are expected to come on stream soon.

Aquaculture technology and difficulties A basic part of pond and tank aquaculture is to continuously recirculate the fish water. Once they have eaten, the fish pass solids and urine. The solids can be filtered out, but the urine contains ammonium ion, which can build up through the recycling of the water. If the ammonium gets high it is toxic to the fish, so it must be removed. This is done by passing the water through a bio-filter, also called a bioreactor. The biologically active population first converts the ammonium ion to nitrite ion, then to nitrate ion. While much less toxic to the fish than ammonium, the nitrate must not be allowed to rise too high, hence it must be bled off. The result is a high nitrogen content waste stream, the disposal of which is a major problem for aquaculture.


Aquaponics Why not turn this waste stream into a useful feed for something that will use it? Like a hydroponic system! This could be done by feeding food to the fish that results in their waste stream being of a suitable nutrient balance for use by the plants. Unfortunately it is not quite that simple. The optimum solution properties for the fish and for vegetable plants are different. For example, for barramundi compared to leafy greens: • pH: 7.4 compared to 6.2 • Water temperature:  28o – 30oC compared to 20o – 25oC • Nutrient level (EC): low compared to higher • Salt level (sodium chloride): high compared to low • Chemical sprays: never, compared to sometimes • The nutrient balances needed are different, especially for fruiting plants. These differences need not be critical, but require significant compromise to be combined to become an aquaponics system.

Hobby aquaponics A basic system consists of at least one fish tank then a biofilter and a hydroponic system. The hydroponic system is typically media based beds, often using expanded clay, however, it can also be a water based tank or channel system. Tying the system together in order to recirculate are pumps and pipes. Hobbyists can build their own system or buy a prefabricated system. There are websites, blogs, magazines and books to help the beginner. It tends to be heavily promoted as easy and there are many successful hobby growers, however, failures and death of fish or plants, or more often both, are common.  

Commercial aquaponics In commercial aquaponic production, the different requirements, especially nutrient balance, in the fish water compared to the hydroponic water are a major difficulty. Consequently most modern commercial aquaponic operations in Australia use the fish waste stream as an input into the hydroponic system. That is, although the hydroponic nutrient solution is recirculated, this is done internally, and it is not returned to the fish tanks. This enables the solutions in the fish tanks and the hydroponic system to be

independently optimised. While the step from being a hobby grower and moving to commercial production often seems a minor change, in reality it is actually huge. It is fun to grow your own veggies, harvest them when just ripe, and they seem perfect because you grew them. Commercial production is different. You have to produce a consistent product to specification, harvested to schedule and allowing for delays in the food chain. To do this probably requires investment in a greenhouse and sophisticated aquaponic system. You must know your crop extremely well, how to cultivate it, control pests and diseases, optimise its environment and nutrition, etc. For aquaponics, you have the extra requirement for expert knowledge of how to manage your fish. As for any small business there are the range of management aspects that you have to be on top of. Marketing becomes crucial. Once growing successfully you must be able to sell your produce for a price that makes it all worthwhile.  A failure as a hobby grower is not a problem – you just clean out and start again. As a commercial operation, losing a crop (plants and/or fish) might be a fatal financial disaster, especially if you also lose your market because it required consistent supply.

Organic aquaponics Using an aquaponics system to remove a waste aquaculture stream from the environment is a good move for sustainability and therefore is often thought of as organic. However, this is usually not the case. I am referring here to organic certification, which is the aim of most commercial aquaponics growers. The difficulty comes with the hydroponic part of the system. There are organisations, which give organic accreditation, and what is critical is that organisation’s (or the government’s) definition of ‘organic’. Many define organic as having to be grown in the soil. For these organisations hydroponic and aquaponic systems can never be organic. (For example, in the US, some states require growing in the soil and others do not.) Those other organisations, which don’t limit ‘organic’ to soil growing, have other differing requirements as to what inputs are allowable. Meeting all these requirements is usually very difficult. b RD

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FROM TANK TO TABLE ACROSS THe WORlD An InCReASInG numbeR OF HOme GROWeRS ARe TuRnInG TO AQuAPOnIC PRODuCTIOn TO SuPPlemenT THeIR HOuSeHOlDS’ DIeTS AnD PROvIDe lOW-COST, SuSTAInAble FOOD SOuRCeS FOR THeIR FAmIlIeS. by CHRISTIne bROWn-PAul

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In 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the united nations (FAO) published its Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical paper, Small-scale aquaponic food production: integrated fish and plant farming. The paper’s target audience is agriculture extension agents, aquaculture officers, non-governmental organisations, community organisers, companies and individuals worldwide. The purpose of the paper is “to bring a general understanding of aquaponics to people who previously may have only known about one aspect, i.e. aquaculture agents without experience in hydroponics, and vice versa.” Worldwide, the number of aquaponics ventures is growing, as hobbyists and professional growers alike turn to aquaponics as an alternative, relatively low-cost method for producing food in an urban environment. As a technique that has its place within the wider context of sustainable intensive agriculture – especially in family-scale applications –aquaponics offers supportive and collaborative methods of vegetable and fish production and can grow substantial amounts of food in locations and situations where soil-based agriculture is difficult or impossible.

Jenny Sleep and her family grow everything from lettuce to chillies in their backyard. (ABC Rural: Brooke Neindorf)

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According to the FAO paper, the sustainability of aquaponics is one of its key features. Environmentally, aquaponics prevents aquaculture effluent from escaping and polluting the watershed. At the same time, aquaponics enables greater water and production control. “Aquaponics does not rely on chemicals for fertiliser, or control of pests or weeds, which makes food safer against potential residues. Socially, aquaponics can offer quality-of-life improvements because the food is grown locally and culturally appropriate crops can be grown. At the same time, aquaponics can integrate livelihood strategies to secure food and small incomes for landless and poor households,” wrote the authors of the paper. “Aquaponics is most appropriate where land is expensive, water is scarce, and soil is poor. Deserts and arid areas, sandy islands and urban gardens are the locations most appropriate for aquaponics because it uses an absolute minimum of water. There is no need for soil, and aquaponics avoids the issues associated with soil compaction, salinisation, pollution, disease and tiredness. Similarly, aquaponics can be used in urban and peri-urban environments where no or very little land is available, providing a means to grow dense crops on


small balconies, patios, indoors or on rooftops.” In 2015, analysts estimated that the global aquaponic farming market was worth more than $500 million. With populations already large and still exploding, growing food in the city for the city makes sense not only environmentally but also commercially. In the following we look at three case studies of urban aquaponic farming in various countries, which have met with considerably successful outcomes.

FeeDInG THe FAmIly In Oz In Whyalla, South Australia, the Sleep family is growing fresh fruit, vegetables, chillies, herbs, chickens, turkeys and fish — all in their own backyard. The family has set up its own ‘urban farm’ after one of their children – a fussy eater – was reluctant to eat vegetables. “My daughter is a fussy eater and she does not like vegetables, so we started growing out of wine barrels and growing salad-type vegetables, and we started to research better methods of producing our own goods,” Ms Sleep said. Jenny and Daniel Sleep have set up an aquaponics system that uses fish waste to feed their produce. Ms Sleep said they simply cut a rainwater tank down to size, insulated it and added pumps for the silver perch growing in there. “They like a certain temperature, not too cold and not too hot,” she said. “So basically the fish do a poo and it gets sucked out from the bottom of the tank and goes into the bins, and they mineralise in there and break down, and that is basically the fertiliser for the rest of the system.”

According to Ms Sleep, using aquaponics meant the produce could grow more quickly and within a smaller area. “Depending on what you plant, you can grow almost 30 times more in the same amount of space with aquaponics than you can with a traditional garden bed,” she said. The family has experimented with a range of produce including corn, spring onions, kale and an array of chillies. Their side fence is lined with new fruit trees, and under the verandah there are pots filled with herbs. “There are a lot of benefits involved in aquaponics. There is no bending over into a garden bed. It is all at waist height or above,” Ms Sleep said. “The other one is it uses around one tenth of the amount of water. The only water lost is through evaporation, and there are no issues with soilborne diseases.” “Our lettuce that we grow, we can grow from seed to actually producing food on to the table within six weeks, depending on the time of year,” Ms Sleep said. The Sleep family updates everyone with social media postings under the names Whyalla Urban Farming and Australian Urban Farming. Ms Sleep said many people were keen to learn more about urban farming and the use of aquaponics. “It’s not a new thing, but it is just starting to really get out there and developing a lot more interest,” she said. “My daughter’s eating habits are improving and she does try new things,” Ms Sleep said. “Sometimes her tastebuds are not the greatest, but I have got a son who will basically eat anything out of our garden, so that’s a good thing.”

The family set up its own ‘urban farm’ after one of their children – a fussy eater – was reluctant to eat vegetables. (ABC Rural: Brooke Neindorf)

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PROmOTInG eCO-FRIenDly SySTemS In ARIzOnA In Glendale Arizona, USA, John Healey owns a one-acre property that boasts a commercial aquaponic set-up, growing spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, Moringa trees, strawberries, cilantro and romaine as well 15,000 tilapia held in numerous tanks. The Southwest Aquaponics and Fish Hatchery is just one of Arizona’s fast-growing number of commercial aquaponic farms. In the US, analysts estimate the industry’s annual growth rate at more than 10 per cent from 2016 to 2020, fuelled by an increasing demand for organic food. In 2012, Arizona was a state with the third-most aquaponics farms – both commercial and residential – in the US and possessed the second-largest average aquaponics farms by size with an average of about 3,208 gallons of water per farm, according to research by the Southern Regional Aquaculture Center. George Brooks Jr., CEO of NxT Horizon Group, an agriculture technology consulting firm, said he has witnessed growing interest in aquaponics, citing increased attention from traditional media and social media. He also teaches a new aquaponics course at Mesa Community College. “Part of the growth has to do with the demand for both fresh local produce and locally sourced fish. Research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

suggests there is a market for local fish farmers,” Mr Brooks said. “Americans consume about 4.8 billion pounds of seafood annually, yet more than 91 per cent of our seafood is imported from other countries.” Mr Brooks said he is optimistic that aquaponics is starting to make its way into the mainstream, but recognises that aquaponics in Arizona faces some of the universal challenges of the discipline, such as finding ways to make aquaponics systems cost effective, ensuring proper food safety measures and making further technological advances. “Many people also have started operating these farms on a smaller scale as a hobby, saying the produce is healthier and often tastes better,” he said. “You get the most efficient growth of vegetables with a whole lot less chemistry,” John Healey added. “The systems can grow a diverse crop of vegetables, herbs and other plants and also use 80 per cent less water than traditional farming and is 60 to 70 per cent more productive.” Mr Healey says that within one-square foot of space, he can achieve six times the production of a traditional dirt farmer. “There is no such thing as a brown thumb in aquaponics,” Mr Healey said. The Southwest Aquaponics and Fish Hatchery not only sells its vegetables at farmers’ markets, it also sells fish

John Healey started Southwest Aquaponics and Fish Hatchery in Glendale, Arizona with just one tank in his backyard. He now helps people across the state start their own home gardens with aquaponics. (Photo by Courtney Kock/Cronkite News)

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and aquaponics systems to the public. One advantage that George Brooks sees for aquaponics in Phoenix is that the city has made efforts to work on zoning for agriculture, traditionally the greatest impediment to urban agriculture. “It gives the foundation to say, ‘yes I can do this,’” Mr Brooks said. Also promising for the discipline is the work of entities such as Southwest Aquaponics to bring more people into the aquaponics fold. John Healey received his introduction to aquaponics 10 years ago, through discovering the benefits of fish waste for his garden and trees while raising koi. Following research, he installed his first aquaponics system three years later and switched over to tilapia because of their hardiness, faster growth rate and higher popularity among consumers. Now he finds himself introducing others to the benefits of aquaponics. He estimates that he has converted more than 1,000 people and said his demographic seems to be under 35 and over 60. “People concerned about their own health and the health of their families, and people over 60 who have had a health scare and are trying to correct,” Mr Healey said.

Young tilapia stay in the hatchery, which is an old horse barn that has been converted to house thousands of fish, at the Southwest Aquaponics and Fish Hatchery in Glendale. (Photo by Courtney Kock/Cronkite News)

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GROWInG POWeR In SAIGOn In Saigon, a growing group of enthusiasts is pioneering an aquaponics movement, creating the potential to produce sustainable food in their own homes. A mechanical engineer, a medical equipment specialist, a biotech worker and a budding IT technician are redefining the purpose of rooftops as simply places to dry clothes. Collectively called Vnaquaponics, the team is among some of the pioneers of aquaponics in Vietnam.  “Aquaponics is essentially the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics,” said Huynh Minh Thuan, the spokesperson and medical equipment specialist of the group. “In aquaponics, we build a symbiosis system using fish and plants. The fish live in one tank, the plants grow roots in a connected tank. Fish create nutrient rich water by producing organic waste and attracting bacteria. Plants then extract nutrient from this nutrient rich water,

Saigon holds tremendous potential for aquaponics with many underutilised rooftop space. Image by Ngoc Tran.

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thus cleansing the fish’s habitat. Plants also shed leaves and other plant materials into the water supply, and the fish eat this plant waste. And there you have it, a complete and self-contained food production cycle that requires minimum land resources or human intervention. “In other words, aquaponics is the future of ecological agriculture. Not only does it maximise limited resources, it also produces far better yields than traditional farming and requires neither the use of growth hormones or constant human care,” Mr Thuan said. “A good aquaponic system can run on automated mode for weeks, needing only the occasional harvests to keep the plants from overgrowing. The cost of building a fullsize aquaponic system is roughly VND3 to VND5 million per square metre depending on the complexity of the system.” According to Mr Thuan, aquaponics is still relatively unknown in Vietnam, where the community is composed mainly of hobbyists rather than professional farmers.  “We are basically a bunch of guys who know our way


around wrenches and DIY projects, have some knowledge of gardening and are either concerned or made to become concerned about the state of our food safety by our wives or girlfriends,” Mr Thuan said. “A couple of years ago, there was a food scandal involving chemically contaminated beansprouts. People were so scared of being poisoned by these toxic beansprouts that many started looking into growing clean beansprouts in the privacy of their home. So they started searching for tutorials online and you know how YouTube likes to suggest similar topics to watchers. One thing led to another and that was how the aquaponic movement starting appearing in Vietnam, through sheer accident and food safety fears.” In terms of weather conditions, Vietnam’s tropical climate and year-round sunlight is especially ideal for aquaponics. Ironically, at the moment, aquaponics in Vietnam is more popular as home decor than an alternative to traditional farming.  “Over half of our population is involved one way or another in the agricultural industry. You would think in a country like this, it would be the farmers who pounce on aquaponics tech, but no, it’s the ladies who fancy a lovely bouquet on top of their fish bowls that are the first consumers of aquaponics products right now,” Mr Thuan said. Mr Thuan believes the agriculture industry in Vietnam is mired in traditional technologies and out-dated thinking, and that despite several food safety scandals in recent years, the majority of local farmers do not understand or value clean, organic food produced by aquaponics. “Your normal farmer, when we approached them with an aquaponic model we designed specifically for Vietnam, is not very interested. From their perspective, they have worked the same way for centuries so if it isn’t broken, why change it?” he said. “Saigon holds tremendous potential for aquaponics with its ideal weather conditions and under-utilised rooftop space and, most importantly, a young educated population who knows the value of clean, organic food.” One of Vnaquaponics’s long-term goals is to change this general mindset towards food production and safety. “We have only just started out and are a long way from doing what we really want to do,” Mr Thuan said. “We have designed and built several flora and fauna systems specifically for local weather conditions,” said Vo Hoang Nhan, the group’s mechanical engineer. “We learned how to build aquaponic systems from Western manuals and books, but the conditions of

In terms of weather conditions, Vietnam’s tropical climate and year-round sunlight is especially ideal for aquaponics. Image by Ngoc Tran. Vietnam are different from America and other European countries. A lot of adjustments in construction materials, plant and fish types are needed. A lot of adjustments in handling the fresh produce too since the yield in a tropical country is much more than in a temperate country!” Recently, Vnaquaponics began building an elaborate website as a hub for information on the topic. Though the site is not yet finished, it already holds a substantial amount of documentation on the group’s experiments with various designs. “Our number one goal right now is to spread awareness and knowledge of aquaponics to the Vietnamese public,” said Mr Thuan. “Once we’ve got the basics down pat, good business will soon follow.” b

The majority of local farmers do not value the clean, organic food produced by aqauponics. Image by Ngoc Tran.

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Melting of the ice

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The Svalbard Global Seed Vault tucked into the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen.

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norway is set to boost protection of its Arctic seed vault from climate change, which threatens the world’s supply of seeds as soaring temperatures caused water to leak into its entrance. Norway is reinforcing the flood defences of its Global Seed Vault on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard after water entered the entrance tunnel last year. The storage facility, deep inside a mountain, is designed to preserve the world’s crops from future disasters. Unseasonably high temperatures last year caused the permafrost to melt, sending water into the entrance of a 100-metre tunnel inside the vault. Fortunately, no seeds were damaged, however, the facility is to have new waterproof walls in the tunnel and drainage ditches outside. A Norwegian government spokeswoman added that all heat sources would also be removed from inside the vault. In addition, Statsbygg, the agency that administers the vault, is to carry out a research and development project to monitor the permafrost on Svalbard. The vault stores seeds from 5,000 crop species from around the world. Dried and frozen, it is believed they can be preserved for hundreds of years. Situated deep inside a mountain on a remote Arctic island in a Norwegian archipelago, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, dubbed the “doomsday” vault, is the largest of its kind and can store up to 2.5 billion seeds. Freezing temperatures inside the vault keep the seeds, sealed in packages and stored on shelves, usable for a long period of time. Permafrost and thick rock should guarantee the seeds are frozen and secured for centuries. “It’s not good to have unnecessary heat inside if water is coming in and permafrost is melting,” Hege Njaa Aschim said. “We have to listen to climate experts

(and) we are prepared to do anything to protect the seed vault,” she added. “Inside the mountain it’s safe but the problems we have experienced are just outside and in the front of the tunnel, which is the entrance. So, yes, maybe something has changed in the permafrost, but we don’t know, and that is what the climate researchers are looking into. We have to follow them carefully.” The vault currently stores more than 880,000 seed samples from nearly every country in the world, including food staples such as maize, rice, wheat, cowpea and sorghum from Africa and Asia. It also protects European and South American varieties of aubergine, lettuce, barley and potatoes. “The water that leaked in had turned into ice ... we had it removed,” Aschim said. Norwegian authorities are “taking this very seriously” and “following it continuously,” she added. There are 1,700 gene banks around the world that safeguard collections of food crops and many of these are exposed to natural disasters and wars, according to the independent Global Crop Diversity Trust. If a nation’s seeds are lost as a result of a natural disaster or a man-made catastrophe, the specimens stored in the Arctic could be used to regenerate them. “The Svalbard vault was opened in 2008 with the aim to provide a fail-safe seed storage facility, built to stand the test of time and the challenge of natural or man-made disasters,” said the organisation. “It is the final back up.” Each country that deposits the seeds into the vault has control and access to its own material. Scientists at the facility describe the vault as the most important room in the world. b

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The Arctic Doomsday Vault received a fitting upgrade after a flooding event in 2016.

Behind frozen locked doors.

Top and below: seeds under the microscope.


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The vault stores seeds from 5,000 crop species from around the world.

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Seeds - the source of life on earth 44 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017


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John Hall is hoping to be able to grow medicinal cannabis on his Bundaberg farm next year. Photographer Eliza Goetze. In Queensland, a hemp grower has been appointed executive director of a medical marijuana and hydroponics supplier, which is riding high on the cannabis boom all the way to the stock exchange. In Bundaberg, Queensland, John Hall is now executive director of The Hydroponics Company, which manufactures and distributes hydroponic equipment, designs small to large-scale greenhouses and high-end, next generation agricultural products across Australia, Asia, US and Canada. The Sydney-based company made an impressive debut on the ASX, trading under the appropriate ticker code of THC, as part of its initial public offering and has successfully raised $8m in capital at $0.20 per share. The IPO, with 40 million shares, was three times oversubscribed with strong interest from investors in Australia and overseas. Mr Hall was appointed to his new role after THC acquired Mr Hall’s medicinal marijuana research company Canndeo, which now forms the medicinal marijuana division of THC and is actively developing plant breeding technologies to target the high purity

John Hall has experimented with hemp as a material for a wide variety of uses. Photographer Eliza Goetze.

cannabidiol markets. These medicinal products will target dementia, epilepsy and other neurological disorders. Mr Hall has spent 17 years growing industrial hemp locally and brings more than 30 years of experience in plant breeding, crop management and monitoring systems, and agricultural technology. THC chairman Alan Beasley said the company was delighted to have Mr Hall on board. “John’s experience will help drive THC and Canndeo to the forefront of quality medicinal cannabis through leading breeding, technology and agronomic approaches, Mr Beasley said. “We also look forward to John bringing his experience to the hydroponics and indoor farming divisions within THC to accelerate best practice amongst our international customers.” Mr Beasley said the company’s debut on the Australian Securities Exchange marked an important step forward for the company. “The success of the IPO reflects the quality of our experienced team, our established core cannabis businesses and the outlook for growth in the cannabis industry over the next 12-24 months.” The surging global medicinal marijuana market could be further aided as Canada, which has one of the highest rates of marijuana use among young people, prepares to legalise the use of recreational marijuana from July 1 next year. In February, Canndeo lodged an application for a research licence, which will allow the company to legally cultivate medicinal marijuana and conduct research on the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. b Source: Central Telegraph Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017. 47


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TWO yeARS On Following two successful years in the industry, Apex Greenhouses is well on its way to become a world leader in complete greenhouse projects, producing innovative “outside the box” greenhouse designs and concepts, which help to shape the greenhouse industry. With offices in Australia and New Zealand, Apex Greenhouses is the brainchild of directors Folco Faber (former director of Faber Glasshouses) and Eddy Braaksma (former director of greenhouse builder EJ Contractors). Both decided that customers would be better served under a single, collaborative entity, which brought about the amalgamation of the two specialist companies into Apex Greenhouses. “Here at Apex Greenhouses we design, manufacture and build turnkey greenhouse projects, providing a full service to customers to suit a wide range of requirements. We also provide a full range of

greenhouse equipment including heating, irrigation and computer systems as well as greenhouse machinery,” said Folco Faber. Growing up in the greenhouse industry, Folco’s exposure to the industry began from an early age. Upon completion of his BCom and Post-Graduate Diploma in Management Accounting studies, Folco worked as a greenhouse glazier and project manager for two years onsite before moving into the sales and management activities of Faber Glasshouses for the past five years. Folco’s role at Apex is the sales, management and development of the Australian market. Another member of the Apex management team is James Harris. After completing trade certificate in engineering and fabrication, James spent 10 years manufacturing for the NZ dairy and printing industries, before moving into aluminium sales and extrusion

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development. He has been Operations Manager for EJ Contractors for the past five years overseeing construction of greenhouses in New Zealand and Australia. James’ role at Apex includes overall development and coordination of sales, manufacturing, and construction in New Zealand. Apex’s third director is Eddie Braaksma. Eddie emigrated to New Zealand from the Netherlands 25 years ago and founded EJ Contractors with Jon Faber. He eventually became sole director employing large construction crews across NZ and Australia. Eddie has extensive knowledge and experience in all types and sizes of greenhouses is able to offer customised solutions and designs for any project. Eddie’s role at Apex is managing construction and working with the company’s development designers on new innovations and layouts for our clients. So after two years of success in the industry, what has the Apex Greenhouses team achieved? “Well, it feels like a lot longer than two years we must say but we think that is a reflection of what we have achieved in such a short period of time. Two years ago we formed Apex as a merger between Faber Glasshouses and EJ Contractors. Bringing the building

team on board with design and manufacturing has achieved many positive synergies, which are showing good results right throughout the business,” said Folco Faber. “When we first formed Apex, we put together our fiveyear plan for the business. Part of that plan was for heavy reinvestment of profits back into the business. This has allowed us to invest into new capital equipment and gives us a good budget for marketing to be able to invest in sponsorship of conferences such as the PCA. In addition, we have invested heavily into R & D of new greenhouse structures and products – the results of these developments will become known at the Adelaide conference – watch this space. “Recently, [in the past eight to 10 months] there has been a huge worldwide demand for intensive covered cropping structures and projects. It’s great to see. I believe this trend is only going to continue so I would advise those who are thinking to invest to get on board and ride the wave or be left behind,” Folco said. The past two years has seen the company involved in some great projects. The University of Western Sydney in Sydney was a nice project for us. The design was supplied by WUR of The Netherlands and it was an honour to be working on something in conjunction with

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the world leaders in this field. “At this moment we are putting the finishing touches on a 5ha cucumber facility for Family Fresh Farms in NSW. This facility is state-of-the-art, featuring diffused glass with 2xAR coating, a large packing facility and a beautiful 5MW biomass heating system. I must give a big personal thanks to Andrew Young who put his faith in our company to deliver this facility with a lot of other offers from international builders. We at Apex believe it has shown to the market in Australia that we are capable of delivering on projects of this scale and we are proud in being able to provide a local alternative with a more personalised service than international competitors,” he said. “Another development has been our collaboration with BOAL Systems of The Netherlands for roofing systems for greenhouses. Particularly with larger projects, it means we are no longer restricted in our capacity for glass roof systems (which is limited from our NZ base). Regarding innovation, BOAL is at the forefront of innovation in roofing and aluminium systems. With this

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collaboration it also gives us access to many innovative roof types outside of our own range. “We are not the biggest company, nor do we strive to be. Our vision is to be one of the most innovative and over the coming months and years we hope to be able to add weight to that vision,” Folco said. “Finally, we would like to thank all our customers. In our line of business, the capital commitments for growers are large and we do not take it lightly for any grower, large or small, who puts their trust in us. Thank you all and we look forward to continuing our relationships and growing together. b Apex Greenhouses will be an exhibitor at the 2017 ApexBrinkmann PCA Conference 2017 – ‘Future Growing’ to be held in Adelaide, South Australia from Sunday 9 July to Tuesday 12 July, 2017 at the newly renovated Adelaide Convention Centre on North Terrace. “We look forward to seeing everyone at the conference,” said Folco. “Don’t be shy to come and say hello!” More information at: www. apexgreenhouses.com.au


EUREKA cucumber grower finds a biological winner

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With 16 years as head grower of one of Australia’s largest mini cucumber operations, Andrew Potter recently had a eureka moment that has delivered significant productivity gains and thousands of dollars in savings for the enterprise. Located in South Australia’s Northern Adelaide Plains region near Virginia, P’Petual Holdings operates an 8hectare greenhouse production site, including 4 ha of mini “snacking’’ cucumbers, 3 ha of traditional truss and specialty vine tomatoes, of which 2 ha is under glasshouse, and 1 ha of eggplants. The tomatoes also include the kumato black tomatoes. Produce is sold to major supermarket chains including Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, Costco, Foodland and IGA, as well as through wholesalers. The cucumbers are grown in bags of coco peat set in channels and the tomatoes in rockwool media imported from Europe. Most of the production systems are computer controlled, with measurements taken on how much water is emitted from bags and samples analysed in Europe to keep a check on the program. “Nutritionally, we use our own mixes and we have yearly budgets for crops, either in kilograms per square metre

Darren and Andrew with young mini cucumber seedlings in the coco peat bags. Use of Serenade Prime has allowed them once again to use the one bag for four crops.

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or kilograms per crop,’’ Andrew said. P’Petual grows four, 12-week mini cucumber crops annually, however, the bags and growing medium are replaced after three crops due to increased seedling losses. At least this was before Andrew adopted a biological product after talking with his local Agronomist Paul Pezzaniti, of Virginia CRT agent, Complete Ag and Seed Supplies. “Paul mentioned the Serenade® Prime biological product and it turned on a lightbulb in my head because I had read about it online,’’ Andrew said. “Then he mentioned Bacillus and it turned on another lightbulb”. With the mini ‘cucs’, we can’t spray because we are picking every day – we can’t have withholding periods.’’ Serenade Prime, from Bayer, is a liquid biological solution containing viable spores of the highly active QST 713 strain of beneficial bacteria Bacillus subtilis. After germination, these beneficial bacteria live on the plant root surfaces and in the soil zone around the root systems, called the rhizosphere, where they ameliorate soil and growth media nutrients for the plants under suitable conditions.


Darren and Andrew take a closer look at the mini cucumber seedlings that are watered with Serenade Prime biological mix prior to planting.

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When interactions between the bacteria, plants and soil or growth media are balanced, both the plants and bacterial populations function at a higher level, allowing nutrients and water to become more available. In short cycle crops, Serenade Prime is designed to be used early as an inoculating agent, while in perennial crops, it is designed to reinvigorate the soil/root/microbe relationship at critical growth times. “We did a batch with Serenade Prime and we got good results – we didn’t have to replace as many seedlings,’’ Andrew said. “We used to do four crops in a bag, but we went to three due to the seedling loss. If we have a hot summer, we can lose 15-20 per cent after transplant. “We are now going back to four crops in a bag with Serenade Prime. We used it in a third planting and we only lost one per cent and the fourth planting also looked pretty good, with not a lot of seedling failures.’’ P’Petual use 7000 bags for the mini cucumbers, so it’s a significant saving. Instead of doing up to 10 per cent oversow, they may now do three per cent. As a niche product costing 60 cents per seed, this is another good saving. At 30,000 plants/ha, the saving amounts to more than $3000, plus labour savings. In addition to watering the mini cucumbers in the plug trays with the Serenade Prime before planting the next morning, P’Petual also apply it 21 days later and then a further 28 days after this application. “The plants definitely appear to be stronger. It’s a healthier nutrition system and there is better nutrient uptake for the life of the crop,’’ Andrew said. “We have used a number of other similar products, but we haven’t seen as much success. “We try to do a bit of R&D and we had a bit of a look at

the Serenade Prime and the root development was good. “Serenade Prime as a biological product is working well and its price is good – it’s affordable. “We will probably introduce it into other crops when we replant.’’ Bayer Commercial Sales Representative Darren Alexander has had significant experience with biological products throughout his 17 years of working across the horticulture sector, but he said not with a product that had reached this level of effectiveness. “The level of improvement that we are seeing with Serenade Prime is giving growers so much confidence in the future of biological products and I expect Serenade Prime will become a leading product across the vegetable and fruit industries.’’ Andrew said P’Petual would look to use more biological products and beneficial insects in the future.

AbOuT bAyeR In AuSTRAlIA Bayer is a world-class innovation company with more than 150 years’ history and core competencies in the Life Science fields of healthcare and agriculture. Its products and services are designed to benefit humans, animals and plants. It has operated in Australia since 1925 and has a long-term commitment to the health of Australians, the agricultural industry and the welfare of animals, large and small. In Australia, Bayer currently employs almost 900 people across the country and is dedicated to servicing the needs of rural Australia and the local community. Bayer is deeply committed to research and development and has a strong tradition of innovation with the development and commercialisation of over 5,000 products and services. The company’s focus on people, partnerships and innovation underpins all aspects of its operations, consistent with its mission, “Bayer: Science For A Better Life.” b More information: www.bayer.com.au

Serenade® Prime is a Registered Trademark of the Bayer Group.

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P’Petual Head Grower Andrew Potter and Bayer Commercial Sales Representative Darren Alexander check the development of the company’s mini cucumber crop near Virginia in South Australia.

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GROWING TOGETHER

In the uS, an innovative hydroponic gardening program at boston College’s lynch School of education is winning over students.

In the hydroponic greenhouse students grow chard, kale, lettuce and other greens. Credit: Boston College. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017. 63


Students run a stand at local farmers markets almost every Saturday, and have to step up to answer questions from customers who are sceptical about hydroponics. Credit: Boston College.

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Hands-on science lessons in a greenhouse can grow more than fruits and vegetables. They also nurture a love of science among youths in student populations long underrepresented in the sciences, according to a new report by researchers at boston College’s lynch School of education. The Lynch School of Education is a professional school of Boston College that offers graduate and undergraduate programs in education, psychology and human development. Boston College’s Urban Hydrofarmers project is part of its College Bound program, which prepares high school students for college by teaching them valuable skills in business and science. With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and in partnership with the STEM Garden Institute, Boston College chose to pursue hydroponics with teenagers because it involves all the basic disciplines students learn in high school. Elementary-age students – primarily African-American, Hispanic and English Language Learners developed positive attitudes toward science, less anxiety and

Boston College Professor of Science Education Mike Barnett (R) and colleagues report a number of positive results for students who participated in an after-school science enrichment curriculum that uses hydroponic methods.

greater self-confidence after participating in an afterschool program where they grew fruits and vegetables using soilless, hydroponic methods, the researchers report in the current edition of the Journal of Science Education and Technology. ”Engaging youth in learning to grow and care for their plants serves as both a way to spark interest and curiosity in science and offers an easy way for afterschool instructors to support their students in learning science,” said Lynch School of Education Professor of Science Education Michael Barnett, the project leader. ”Most after-school instructors have little experience with science, thus it is important to design programs that support not only student learning but are also easy for instructors to implement and to support student learning in the scientific processes,” added Mr Barnett, who coauthored the report with doctoral student Amie Patchen and former doctoral student Lin Zhang, now an assistant professor of education at Providence College. The study of 234 Boston-area students who participated in the program at three sites showed anxiety decreased and interest increased for both boys and girls,


according to the study “Growing Plants and Scientists: Fostering Positive Attitudes toward Science among All Participants in an Afterschool Hydroponics Program”. ”Self-confidence as science students increased for girls at all three sites, but did not change significantly for boys. The researchers found that a student’s first language – whether English or Spanish – was not a factor in changed attitudes. ”This was rather surprising in that the curriculum was not particularly designed to engage nonnative English speakers,” said Mr Barnett. “We believe that as we re-design the materials with non-native English speakers as a focus of the curriculum design we will better support those learners. ”The findings suggest that hydroponics “can be a useful educational platform for engaging participants in garden-based programming year round, particularly for settings that do not have the physical space or climate to conduct outdoor gardening,” according to the study. Because program format and implementation and instructor backgrounds varied at the three locations, the positive outcomes show the program lends itself to replication in a range of settings.

”The elementary version of our hydroponics curriculum could be easily and successfully implemented across teachers and contexts,” said Mr Barnett. “This is a very exciting finding as that suggests the hydroponics curriculum can be scaled to any number of contexts where teachers have little science, or teaching, experience. The researchers say their next step is to look at which specific aspects of the program led to the positive changes in student attitudes toward science. In 2012, Michael Barnett set up the hydroponics program at the school, which attracted much enthusiasm from students. ”We charged them with the task of building a hydroponic system to grow 50 plants that would fit in a closet, and they wouldn’t leave the lab.” Barnett said. “At that point, we knew we were on to something. ”The goal of the project is to motivate students to pursue science in higher education, according to NSF Program Director David Campbell. ”It addresses the ultimate goals of NSF by engaging young people in science and preparing the next generation of the scientific workforce,” Mr Campbell said. About 60 high school students come to learn at Boston

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Here, basil is shown growing in the vertically designed hydroponic greenhouse. The systems shown, designed by high-school youth, represent the second version of the hydroponic systems used in this project. Credit: Boston College.

College’s greenhouse every year. The program targets teens with average grades, Mr Barnett said, and many of the students come from immigrant families. Some of these students would not reach college without the aid and skills the program provides, according to David Campbell.Students are a part of the growing process from start to finish, from designing the hydroponic systems to selling the produce they grew. The greenhouse is 1200 square feet of growing space, Barnett said and can produce about 1,000 plants every two weeks. The produce is then sold at a farmers market. “Students run a stand at local farmers markets almost every Saturday, and have to step up to answer questions from customers who are sceptical about hydroponics,” Mr Barnett said. For Stonehill College student Lori Phillips, these questions were both her favourite and most challenging experiences while in the program.” The very first time the hydroponics team went to sell at a farmers market, it was a hot, slow day, and we couldn’t get any one to stop and hear us out,” she said. “I swallowed my fear and spoke out to an older woman about College Bound and the hydroponic team’s goal. ”When the woman she spoke to that first day asked for Mr Barnett’s contact information to tell him how impressed she was, Lori 68 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017


Phillips became more confident in her public speaking and now enjoys speaking up. Students not only gain experience in public speaking by running the stand, but also business planning, according to Mr Barnett. The program lets the students decide how to spend the money made from the farmers markets. They learn how to run a business because they come to understand that they have to save up and invest in materials. This business savvy, coupled with science learning, gives students a foot in the door in the green energy industry, Mr Barnett said. The project teaches the students how both wind and solar power can create a reliable source of energy for the hydroponics systems. Green energy also opens up the possibility to expand the hydroponics outside the greenhouse, Barnett said. Students have started five hydroponics systems on campus and a few more in the city, all powered by solar panels. By combining green energy and hydroponics, students are taking part in an emerging market for locally grown produce. Green energy, such as wind and solar, can heat greenhouses during off-seasons, so produce can be grown anywhere year-round, according to Mr Barnett who cited the increasing number of farmers markets and the farm-to-table movement as evidence of hydroponics’ bright future.”Now you can grow the produce for the same price as it’s being shipped from California, but the difference it is it ends up being healthier, tasting better and being more nutritious,” he said. “It’s not been picked and shipped for 3,000 miles. It’s local. ”With hydroponics, the space constraint and soil contamination found in urban areas is no longer a deterrent for growing local. According to Barnett, a person can grow 40 plants within a space of two square feet. The project has given some young people the idea of starting hydroponics businesses of their own to bring local produce to their neighbourhoods, according to Mr Barnett. For Lori Phillips, the project has inspired her to get other students involved in hydroponics and even start a major for it at her college. ”I think that we’ve got the kids right at the cusp of what could be a really nice place for them to be in terms of capitalising on an emerging market,” Mr Barnett said. b

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DESERT BLOOMS HyDROPOnICS AnD ORGAnIC FARmInG ARe beCOmInG A PRIORITy In Abu DHAbI.

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Abu Dhabi hydroponic farmer.

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In our 2011 article – ‘Creating the Oasis’ (PH&G issue 117) – we traced how, in the face of global food shortages and rising prices, harsh desert environments and low water resource availability, a growing number of Arab nations are trialling initiatives to implement new techniques such as hydroponics both in cities and villages with a goal to secure long-term, sustainable food security. According to Gulf News, in Abu Dhabi, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has now placed a priority on increasing the use of hydroponic technology and organic farming as part of the 2017-2021 food security strategy, a top official recently told the Federal National Council (FNC). The Council is the federal authority of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) formed to represent the general Emirati people. The FNC consist of 40 members with advisory tasks in the house of legislative council. “Hydroponic farming is up to 70 per cent more water efficient than traditional methods and allows for a longer growing season,” said Dr Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment. “Hydroponics is one of the techniques that proved over the past few years as having excellent prospects for the UAE and the greenhouses grew from 10 in 2009 to 1,000 last year.” Dr Al Zeyoudi added the technology results in considerable conservation of water, which is a challenge in the UAE and the region. Most farmers rely on groundwater to irrigate their crops, however, the amount and quality of the country’s reserves have been decreasing steadily after years of exploitation. The minister said his ministry has also been promoting organic farming for the past few years with 46,900 acres producing organic crops nationwide. Dr Al Zeyoudi was responding to a question from Salem Ali Al Shehi, a member from Ras Al Khaimah, concerning the ministry’s efforts to boost food production through hydroponics and organic farming. Mr Al Shehi said the ministry should help more farmers switch to hydroponics and organic farming. The member also demanded that the ministry help more farmers by providing hydroponic systems and fertilisers at subsidised prices to boost food production and make it more efficient. The technique was first introduced into the country in 2009, when there were 10 such greenhouses, compared to 1,000 at the end of 2016. Mr Al Shehi said hydroponics saves some 80 per cent of Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017. 73


Emirate Palace, Abu Dhabi.

Dr Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi and FNC member Salem Ali Al Shehi exchanging views during a recent session of the Federal National Council in Abu Dhabi.

irrigation water and can produce crops for 10 months of the year. “But the cost involved might hamper more farmers from changing to hydroponics,” he said. He estimates that a hydroponic farm could cost around Dh250, 000 (around AU$89,000) to establish, because a greenhouse facility costs about Dh30,000 to Dh50,000 (from AU$10,717 to AU$17,860). The minister said quality seeds, greenhouses, laboratory tests, and research and development services are offered to farmers to encourage them to resort to hydroponics and organic farming to grow chemicalfree products. “Organic products bear a distinctive mark to enhance consumer confidence and the ministry is creating new marketing opportunities for organic products in cooperation with competent local authorities to encourage organic farmers,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said. Among the country’s largest hydroponic agricultural producers is Emirates Hydroponics Farms (EHF) between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Other UAE hydroponic specialists include Salata Farms in Ras Al Khaimah and regional operator Pegasus Agritech, headquartered in Dubai. UAE industry experts point out that the water savings hydroponics offers are little short of dramatic. To produce one kilogram of lettuce, for example, it requires a little over 20 litres of water, while traditional methods use almost 400 litres. In typical hydroponic systems, up to 80 or even 90 per cent of the water can be reused — rather than simply allowing it to seep into the ground as with traditionally planted crops. “However, it is not just the water savings that make hydroponics attractive,” Mr Al Shehi said. “If farmers grow crops in open fields, they will require a large land area, while with hydroponics, they would require a smaller footprint area to produce more crops. “With hydroponics comes the improved growing rate because it is easier to create perfect conditions for growth such as light, temperature, carbon dioxide and nutrients.” b See issue: www.hydroponics.com.au/issues/issue117/html5/

Abu Dhabi: an ever expanding city springing out of the desert. 74 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017


Outside the city the environment is still very harsh.

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Changing our world one step at a time. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017. 75


R.I.P. VALE: CLIFF (GOUGHIE) GOUGH 4 JAnuARy 1928 – 9 June 2017 The hydroponic community has lost one of its much-loved and talented members with the recent passing of Cliff (Goughie) Gough. Following a short illness, Cliff sadly passed away at Deniliquin Hospital on 9 June 2017, aged 89. Cliff leaves behind his loving family – sons Kevin, bruce and Russell and daughter neta – as well as his devoted long-time companion and fellow hydroponic gardener, Thelma Thompson (pictured above with Cliff in his hydroponic garden). A master hydroponic gardener who generously shared his passion, giving so much to so many, Cliff left this earth fittingly bestowed with a packet of seeds tucked into his pocket. Rest in peace. b EDITOR’S NOTE: See our full story – ‘Back in my own backyard’ – about Cliff’s garden in PH&G issue 172.

76 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . June . 2017


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MAKING OUR WORLD GREENER

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017. 77


THE FINAL WORD Dr mike nichols looks at how huge savings in water and fertiliser might be achieved by growing hydroponically in new zealand. Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Ode to the Ancient Marinerâ&#x20AC;? by Samuel Coleridge Taylor There is little doubt that Bruce Wills comments in Aprilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s NZ Grower are very pertinent for the future of horticulture in New Zealand. We do have plenty of fresh water in New Zealand, but we use it in a very inefficient, profligate and sloppy manner. The changes in the agriculture on the Canterbury Plains is a good example of what should not be, while the waste water disposal by many of our larger cities is certainly more Third World than First World. The rivers (and the oceans) were never meant to be sewers. There is little point in a blame game between the dairy industry and the cities, as both are major polluters of our rivers and lakes, but is required is to establish a suitable mechanism to reduce this problem. Horticulture is also

Leeks growing hydroponically.

78 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017

not lily-white in this respect, and it is only the fact that the horticultural areas are so small, relative to agriculture that it has not been targeted. Certainly from a point source aspect horticulture would be a major offender, due to the very large rates of fertilise/ that is applied in order to produce acceptable yields (compared to agriculture). The work of Plant & Food Research New Zealand with its crop nutrient management studies is a move in the right direction, but in the final analysis there will be a need for much more major rethink on how we produce crops, which require high levels of fertiliser to obtain good yields without raising the nitrogen and phosphate levels in our rivers. The Dutch are already thinking seriously about this, and have started research programs with vegetables to reduce the quantities of fertiliser being leached from the soil. They are looking to producing field vegetables using hydroponics. Using a recirculating hydroponic system the nutrients are all retained within the system, and a far higher proportion of the fertiliser is taken up by the crop, because there is no leaching/run off, volatilisation or fixing of the fertiliser by the soil. Greenhouse crops are more and more being grown


hydroponically, and good control systems already exist to monitor and adjust pH and conductivity, and it is only a question of when not if we have suitable systems available to reliably control the levels of the major nutrients (N/P/K) using single ion electrodes. There are a large number of vegetable crops, which can be grown successfully hydroponically (excluding tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers and leafy greens), which could and should be grown hydroponically if we ae serious in the need to keep our river systems clean. Leeks are an excellent example, as has already been demonstrated by Erik van Os in The Netherlands, but why not cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli, etc. We have grown leeks in Palmerston North hydroponically, and it certainly has major meritsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;cleaner product, and much heavier yields. (see NZ Grower, 66(6), 52-53) More and more berryfruit is being grown hydroponically under protected covers, but few use a recirculating system, not only a big waste

of expensive fertiliser (and water) but also a potential polluter of the ecosystem. Inevitably this technology will shift into other fruit crops. I am not sure that I can see extensive horticultural field crops being grown hydroponically, but there again, why not? Think of the huge savings in water and fertiliser which might be achieved by growing export squash hydroponically. Who knows what the future holds, except that change is inevitable with our diminishing resources. b ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr Mike Nichols is a retired lecturer from Massey University and a regular contributor to Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses magazine. He has travelled around the world consulting on horticulture and is one of only 25 honorary members of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS). Email: oxbridge@inspire.net.nz

Growing leeks hydroponically results in a cleaner product and much heavier yields. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . July . 2017. 79


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