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PRACTICAL

PONICS & GREENHOUSES www.hydroponics.com.au

SUSTAINABLE GROWING IN THE EU: Dutch lead the way GREENING THE CAMPS

BUILDING THE DREAM

Rooftop gardens in Palestinian refugee camps

Tasman Bay Herbs' road to success

REAPING THE REWARDS

COLOURMETRIC ANALYSIS

Piñata Farms’ harvesting innovation

How hydroponic solutions are analysed

2017

ISSUE 185

NOVEMBER & DECEMBER

The Commercial Growers’ Magazine


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

From The Editor

Greening of Europe

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

Contributing Authors Rick Donnan Dr Mike Nichols

Advertising Sales Mark Lewis Tel: +613 9432-5428 Email: marklewis@hydroponics.com.au

Creative Direction & Design Steve (Gecko) Harrison Tel: +84 (0) 908 426-349 Email: sleepygecko@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

Welcome to this issue of Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses.

T

he Netherlands has always been considered to be at the forefront of greenhouse technology and is the undisputed market leader in flowers, plants, bulbs and reproductive material as well as the number three exporter in the world of nutritional horticulture products. Dutch inventiveness under glass is well known. Nowhere else in the world are plants cultivated on such a large scale - Dutch greenhouses cover an area of more than 60 km2, constituting a city of glass – and with a relatively low impact on the environment. The focus is on concepts and technologies that facilitate energy-efficiency and adaptability to climate change. It is little wonder therefore that when it comes to the development of European agriculture and horticulture, the Dutch are leading the way. Our story, Sustainable growing in the EU looks at how sustainable production is gaining in popularity across Europe and how the Dutch greenhouse sector is making large contributions to the advancement of knowledge in this area. Elsewhere in this issue, we trace, how, after a rocky start, New Zealand producer Tasman Bay Herbs today supplies 30 different varieties of culinary herbs and salad green to supermarkets across New Zealand. We also profile Queensland strawberry producer Piñata Farms, which is streamlining its operations through the use of a new harvest aid. Our story, Greening the camps looks at how a newly established, nonprofit organisation is designing, developing, constructing and maintaining rooftop gardens in Palestinian refugee camps while in Colourmetric analysis, Alex Harrison explains how hydroponic solutions are analysed using photometric and colourmetric methods. Finally, in a story that will interest many, Dr Mike Nichols writes about how consumers’ insistence on the cosmetic appearance of a product, becomes important selection criteria for the plant breeder. These and other stories await your reading pleasure.

the Publisher.

Enjoy this issue!

www.hydroponics.com.au

Christine Brown-Paul

ISSN 2202-1485

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 3


A Magazine for

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PONICS

Commercial Growers

Advertising Inquiries Tel: +613 9432-5428 marklewis@hydroponics.com.au

TRADE DIRECTORY Biological Solutions ..............55 Ecogrow................................7 Exfoliators.......................... 41 Extrusion Technologies ..........45 GOTAFE ...............................15 Graeme Smith Consulting .......25 GreenLife Structures ...............4 Haygrove .............................11 Casper Publications .................49 HHI Melbourne......................19 ICI Industries ........................9 Pestech...............................13

& GREENHOUSES ISSUE 185 :: NOVEMBER 2017 :: THE COMMERCIAL GROWERS’ MAGAZINE

Features Sustainable growing in the EU . . . . . . 26 Sustainable growing systems in the EU are gaining in popularity with the Dutch greenhouse sector leading the way. Building the dream . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Tasman Bay Herbs supplies over 30 different varieties of culinary herbs and salad greens across New Zealand. Greening the camps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 A newly established non-profit organisation is developing rooftop gardens in Palestinian refugee camps.

Greening the camps

Practical Reaping the rewards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 In the face of challenges, strawberry producer Piñata Farms is benefiting from its harvesting innovation. Colourmetric analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Alex Harrison explains how hydroponic solutions are analysed using Photometric and Colourmetric methods.

Reaping the rewards

The final word . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 How consumers’ insistence on the cosmetic appearance of a product is an important selection criteria for the plant breeder.

Powerplants ...................... IFC

Departments

PureDrops ...........................39

From the Editor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 News & Products . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Transplant Systems...............47 Disclaimer The information contained in this magazine

Reader Inquiries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

Building the dream

Cover: European agriculture is facing the demands of increasingly hungry populations with sustainable growing methods.

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.

www.hydroponics.com.au

The final word Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 5


NEW HIGH FOLATE STRAWBERRY A SWEET FIND Scientists have discovered an ‘alpha strawberry’ that is very sweet in flavour and has folate levels that may be up to three times higher than standard strawberries. Folate is an important B-group vitamin, which is critical for a range of biological functions in adults and children, including the production of DNA and other genetic material. It is also essential for the healthy

development of the foetus in early pregnancy and can help to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. The strawberry research is funded as part of a $10M Hort Innovaion program $10M Hort Innovation program aimed at developing naturally nutrient-dense food, and delivered and co-funded by the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) University of Queensland, which is

Scientists have discovered an ‘alpha strawberry’ that is very sweet in flavour and has folate levels that may be up to three times higher than standard strawberries.

6 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

supported by the QLD Government. Hort Innovation chief executive John Lloyd said while the strawberry is yet to undergo taste testing through consumer panels to see if it is as good as conventional breeds, the finding is exciting. “This is essentially an ‘alpha strawberry’. It contains way more folate than we would expect to see in a standard strawberry,” he said. Mr Lloyd said the variety was developed to help growers meet


consumer demand. “Consumers are becoming more health conscious and are looking for the maximum amount of nutrients in their food,” he said. “Conversely, research has also shown that four out of five Australian adults are not getting the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables a day to get the nutrients they need. “This new strawberry variety could help growers continue to tap into that health-conscious market through a novel offering.” QAAFI lead researcher, Dr Tim O’Hare said his team had identified a number of high folate strawberries so far in the Naturally Nutritious project, but this yet-to-be-named variety appears to be particularly high. “High folate is generally found in dark green leafy vegetables, so having this folate dense strawberry variety is really novel,” Dr O’Hare said. “If people ate a 250g punnet of these high folate strawberries, it would give them their recommended daily intake of folate.” Dr O’Hare said the new strawberry was discovered by analysing the unknown biochemical properties of various strawberry lines. “The next step will be to see how well the folate in this strawberry is absorbed by the body and also how well it grows in a production setting and, most importantly, to ensure that consumers like its taste.” Strawberries are grown in all states of Australia by an estimated 500 growers concentrated in the Sunshine Coast area of Queensland, the Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Wanneroo and Albany in WA, the Adelaide Hills in SA and Launceston in Tasmania.

13Essentials is a new nanoscale foliar fertiliser for the cannabis industry.

NEW NANOSCALE FOLIAR FERTILISER FOR CANNABIS INDUSTRY According to a company spokesperson, 13Essentials is revolutionary to the cannabis industry but can benefit any indoor or outdoor grow environment. “We are passionate about the healing properties of cannabis and want to be at the forefront of providing growers with a reliable, trusted, fast performing product to produce high yield and quality produce, naturally,” he said. To date, the market test has been primarily in the cannabis industry testing among the professional and medical cannabis licensed growers. “13Essentials is a balanced, nanoscale foliar fertiliser specially designed to increase the overall growth and health of your indoor and outdoor plants. The unique formula contains Silica as well as 12 other nutrients to maximise results yielded by indoor/outdoor plants grown in soil, hydroponics, and in soil-less media,” said the spokesperson. “13Essentials is a safe, non-toxic formula that is derived from naturally occurring minerals, and can be used as a seed germination activator in addition to its primary function as a foliar fertilising spray. “You will see the difference in

quality, size and health of your indoor/outdoor plants in just a couple applications when you begin using 13Essentials,” he said. For more information contact: Anil – 800.960.9344 (option 1) sales@13essentials.com Robert – 800.960.9344 (option 2) robert@13essentials.com Tracey – 619.261.9072 tracey@13essentials.com

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 7


MAKING GREENHOUSES MORE PREDICTABLE Three years ago, iUNU (‘You Knew’) was started by an entrepreneur who aims to solve basic food and water problems in the world. iUNU specifically targets issues on the food side of the greenhouse industry. “As the son of a botanist, I’ve been around plants my entire life,” said Adam Greenberg, Founder and CEO of iUNU. “I’ve spent hundreds of hours talking with greenhouse growers to understand their problems. Based on the outcome of these indepth conversations, we have developed a computer-vision based system that allows growers to see all problems in one overview.” According to Mr Greenberg, because the greenhouse industry is very visual, it makes it a perfect fit for a computer-vision system. “Growers spend a lot of time

looking at healthy plants, but this system, called LUNA, supports growers in taking a look at everything; pests, diseases, environmental threats, etc,” said Mr Greenberg. LUNA builds detailed models of individual plants throughout the day and monitors changes in health of individual plants. A digital flagging system has been built that sends notifications to the grower. “Our role is to help growers find the problems and provide them with accurate knowledge for uselful proactive management.” LUNA turns greenhouses into data-driven manufacturing plants; greenhouse operations become more precise, proactive and predictable. LUNA starts to hone in on the system in a way that optimises the grower’s facility. It begins to learn and remember the moment her cameras and sensors

iUNU digital flagging system.

8 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

are first installed in the greenhouse, giving growers historical records of every detail of every plant in the system, as well as live information. LUNA provides everything the grower needs to make decisions to run the business. “We are empowering growers to see and control more,” Mr Greenberg said. The first system was installed about 1.5 years ago and is being used in the floriculture as well as horticulture industries with lettuce and basil being examples. For tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers, the system is in the research and development stage as currently, LUNA is unable to get under the vines. Right now, iUNU services the entire US, Canada and Mexico. The technology works on a desktop, phone as well as tablet. More info: Adam Greenberg iUNU Tel: 415-812-3102   pr@iunu.com www.iunu.com


PUF VENTURES AUSTRALIA AND UTILITAS GROUP TO BUILD SUSTAINABLE MEDICINAL CANNABIS GROW FACILITY PUF Ventures Australia (PVA) has announced that it has formed an alliance with Utilitas Group, a private company which designs, builds and operates proprietary bioHubs which turn manure, sewage, crop and food processing waste into renewable energy and bioproducts. The Casino bioHub project is already in early stage planning and Utilitas Group is working with ASX listed DomaCom to raise the $4.3 million needed to develop the project. The bioHub will transform organic waste and wastewater from the Richmond Valley region into energy, clean water and other valuable bio-products. PVA has plans to construct a one million-square-foot greenhouse

operation, with large-scale manufacturing, processing and office facilities for the cultivation, production and manufacture of medical cannabis and associated products near the town of Casino, in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia. Utilitas Group is developing a bioHub, near the same location, which will transform organic waste and wastewater from the Richmond Valley region into energy, clean water and other valuable bio products. Through the alliance, PVA will have long-term access to stable environmentally friendly energy, nutrients and reclaimed water generated by the Utilitas bioHub. “There are significant economic and environmental benefits to be gained through the alliance with Utilitas,” said Mr Horsfall, President and CEO of PUF Ventures Australia.

Practical Hydropon-

“The Utilitas bioHub in Casino, New South Wales, has been designed to create dispatchable renewable electricity, green natural gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), valuable nutrients and reclaimed water as part of a closedloop resource recovery process. These are all critical inputs for a large greenhouse operation. “ “Together with Utilitas, we can create the world’s first closed-loop, resource recovery, medicinal cannabis facility, utilising the huge local biomass from the agricultural and food processing industries to pioneer world-leading clean technologies.” “I give high praise to the Richmond Valley Council for its proactive efforts in securing such a high value anchor tenant like PUF Ventures Australia to co-locate with the Casino bioHub,” said Fiona Waterhouse, CEO, Utilitas Group. “Securing PUF Ventures to have

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November . 2017. 9


local, affordable clean energy and nutrients to grow healthy plants and affordable long-term price is a win for the region, community, and environment. It’s also going to create new, local employment, and reduce environmental impacts from waste and emissions.” The long-term success of any licensed cannabis producer is the ability to leverage economies of scale in its grow operations and be a low-cost producer with a premium product. Those companies with state-of-the-art operations with long-term access to affordable energy and nutrients, which are critical cost drivers, will be successful.

About Utilitas Utilitas is on a mission to unleash the power of bioHubs to fuel

industry, support networks and energise communities by delivering 100MW of dispatchable, reliable, local electricity and other bioproducts from 100 bioHubs in 100 regional communities by 2025.  Utilitas originates, designs, builds and operates the bioHubs, contracting with large organic waste producers and energy consumers to treat their waste and supply back energy (electricity, gas, fuel) and other valuable bioproducts at locked in long term prices.

About PUF Ventures PUF Ventures Australia PTY LTD and PUF Ventures Inc. (CSE: PUF) (Frankfurt: PU3) (OTCPK: PUFXF),have formed a strategic partnership with the Richmond Valley Council, New South Wales, Australia, to construct a 1 million-

Casino in northern NSW is the site for PVA’s new one million-square-foot greenhouse operation for the cultivation, production and manufacture of medical cannabis and associated products. 10 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

square-foot greenhouse operation, with large scale manufacturing, processing and office facilities for the cultivation, production and manufacture of medical cannabis and associated products in Australia. PUF Ventures Inc. owns a majority interest in AAA Heidelberg Inc., a private Ontario company that is an advanced applicant for an ACMPR license from Health Canada. Through an exclusive joint venture agreement with Canopy Growth Corp, the Company will join CraftGrow, a collection of highquality cannabis grown by a select and diverse set of producers, made available through the Tweed Main Street website.


Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 11


INNOVATION COACH A SUPPORT FOR GROWERS According to Pat Hannan, CEO of Growcom Australia, as agriculture continues to change, so do our farm businesses. The constant changes to consumer markets, technology and business pressures are driving Queensland horticulture growers to adapt to ensure they remain competitive and profitable. “With the welcome support of Horticulture Innovation, Growcom’s new Hort360 Innovation Coach Program is the latest tool at growers’ disposal in keeping up to date with the opportunities presenting themselves within the agricultural sector. The aim of this program is to work with all farmers who are looking to take advantage of the latest in innovation and technology linking them with available support and services to take their farmbusinesses to the next level. The Innovation Coach works closely with each farmer throughout the program,” Mr Hannan said. “Horticulture has significant opportunities for improvement through advances in technology and mechanisation in the growing, harvesting and packaging of our produce. In many cases these advances are transitioning our sector from small-scale farming into large scale and co-operative agribusinesses with an increasing focus on export opportunities. There

is no doubt that the future of Queensland horticulture is bright for growers if they are ready to embrace innovation across all of its many dimensions. “The Innovation Coach works oneon-one with each grower. The aim is to connect the grower to those businesses, support programs and/or subsidies that may be available to assist them to improve their production and ultimately their farm gate returns. Because all farms and all growers are different, the individual approach by the Innovation Coach helps growers clearly define their own objectives and design their own plans to achieve their goals,” he said. “Growcom understands that most growers are too busy running their farms to investigate the many free or co-contribution government and industry support services available. The Innovation Coach program is designed to assist our members and our sector to engage with opportunities for innovation and growth and make the most of the domestic and looming export opportunities emerging.” To find out more information on the Hort360 innovation Coach or to book a one-on-one appointment visit the Growcom website – growcom.com.au – or call 3620 3844. The Hort360 Innovation Coach is a jointly funded program through Growcom and Horticulture Innovation Australia.

12 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

Growcom’s new Hort360 Innovation Coach Program is the latest tool for growers’ to keep up to date with the opportunities within the agricultural sector.


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0407 308-867 or Freecall 1800 123-457 www.pestech.com.au Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 13


PESTICIDE RESIDUE FOUND IN 75 PER CENT OF HONEY WORLDWIDE A survey of honey from around the world has found that 75 per cent of samples tested contain at least one or more types of pesticide. Swiss scientists tested 198 honey samples sourced from every continent except Antarctica for the presence of five neonicotinoid pesticides, which are commonly used in agriculture. Honey from North America, Asia and Europe contained the highest levels of pesticides, they reported in the journal, Science. The researchers stressed that the levels of contamination found in the honey were actually “below the maximum-residue level authorised for human consumption” by the European Union. However, they said that exposure to these pesticides, which target the nervous system, may harm bees and other pollinators. “There are increasing concerns about the impact of these systemic pesticides [on] honey bees and wild bees,” they wrote.

Colony collapse was first recognised 10 years ago, when beekeepers in the United States noticed that thousands of hives were completely empty of bees. A number of factors have since been discovered to contribute to colony collapse, including pesticides ingested by bees at sub-lethal levels. Study co-author Professor Edward Mitchell from the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, said even at low levels neonicotinoids were cause for concern. “These pesticides are so incredibly toxic that they have a considerable effect at concentrations that are barely measurable,” he said. The researchers employed the help of citizen scientists to send samples of honey purchased in shops around the world back to their laboratory in Switzerland. They excluded products where the source location of the honey could not be verified. “Many of our samples were from very remote regions. We also aimed to [include] isolated oceanic islands and places in central parts of continents far away from big

75 per cent of honey samples from around the world contains at least one or more types of pesticide.

14 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

industrial areas,” Professor Mitchell said. While 30 per cent of samples contained a single pesticide, 45 per cent contained a minimum of two, and up to five different types of neonicotinoid. Thiamethoxam, which was the most commonly detected pesticide in honey from Oceania, was put on a temporary ban by the EU in 2013 following concerns over honey bee colony collapses. Of the 198 samples, six were taken from Australia. According to the study authors, none of the samples reached levels known to have “marked detrimental effects” on bees. A French law passed in 2016 will see the banning of neonicotinoids by 2018. Although colony collapse is yet to be detected in Australia, North America and Europe have still been experiencing high bee mortality over the winter months. In the US 2015-16 winter, a national beekeeping database recorded more than 28 per cent of colonies were lost. Source: ABC News


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16 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


WORLD ABUZZ WITH AUSTRALIA’S LATEST FRUIT FLY FINDINGS For decades, researchers around the world have refined the development of sterile male fruit flies to control wild populations of the pest. While the development of sterile male-only Queensland Fruit Fly (Qfly) for release is new to Australia, with the first strains still in development in a lab, Macquarie University has made a discovery that has international biological scientists in a spin. As part of the $45 million SITPlus partnership, researchers have discovered how to significantly increase production and reduce costs, to rear up to 100 million Qflies each week at a dedicated facility in Port Augusta, South Australia. Professor Phil Taylor said the key to accelerating the production of sterile flies was “asking the flies what nutrients they need and what they want to eat”. “What we have done is apply principles from nutritional biology to

develop and test multiple varieties of a gel-based substance, filled with foods the flies love, plus vitamins and minerals,” he said. “By understanding the real biological needs of developing larvae we can tailor a diet to closely match those needs, and this has resulted in a tripling of production, more uniform development, and higher quality flies, all at lower cost, compared to using traditional fly diets.” “This discovery is incredibly valuable. We have received calls from some of the largest fruit fly rearing facilities in the world asking about our research findings, as this could have major benefits for the world’s production of sterile flies and other insects.” Professor Taylor said the globe’s leading sterile insect technique research centres and fruit fly factories are keenly following the research to help inform their combined production of billions of factory-reared sterile flies each week.

Hort Innovation chief executive John Lloyd said the discovery presents a game changer for fruit fly management. “This research is a major win for Australian Queensland Fruit Fly management,” he said. “Qfly is a serious pest in some of our key growing regions, affecting the quality of the fruit and vegetables we eat and costing the sector $300 million in lost markets. “The next step to apply this technique at the new, state-of-theart sterile Qfly rearing facility in Port Augusta, which is on track to begin fly release logistics testing in sample areas by 2019.” Currently, scientists around the country are working collaboratively across a host of Qfly-focused projects as part of the SITPlus partnership. Areas of focus include everything from developing the most handsome, irresistible sterile male Qfly to attract females to preparing communities for the future release of the flies.

Macquarie University researchers have discovered how to significantly increase production and reduce costs, to rear up to 100 million Qflies each week. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 17


GETTING THE GREEN LIGHT FOR MEDICINAL CANNABIS RESEARCH It’s been used for all kinds of purposes for around 5,000 years, but we’re only just beginning to uncover cannabis’ potential for treating a number of illnesses and conditions. Over the last two decades researchers have started to discover more about the endocannabinoid system. Located in the brain and the nervous system; it’s linked to pain, appetite, memory and the immune system. It also responds to as many as 60 chemicals found in cannabis. Since then, researchers have begun exploring how cannabis could

be used to treat conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and even some forms of cancer. Even though some of these studies have shown promising results, most have been small and short-term. That’s because as a restricted drug it’s been impossible to carry out large, in-depth clinical trials with medicinal cannabis. Until now. Earlier this year, Cann Group was issued Australia’s first Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation Licence, plus two research licences from the Office of Drug Control. The new licence allows Cann Group to produce Australian grown cannabis

The CSIRO has teamed up with Cann Group to help it develop cannabis products that could be used to treat a range of conditions.

that can be prescribed for patient use. “We’ve teamed up with Cann Group to help them develop products that could be used to treat a range of conditions, including childhood epilepsy, chronic pain and loss of appetite in chemotherapy patients,” said a CSIRO spokesperson. “Cann Group is cultivating different strains of cannabis for medical use. Once our dedicated lab is fitted out, we will start analysing the crop for Cann Group to get a better idea of the cannabinoids present, their biological effects and how extracts could be manufactured. “While most research on medicinal cannabis has focused on the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannibidiol (CBD), we’re going to explore the minor cannabinoids and terpenes, which give the plant its characteristic smell,” he said. “From these results, we’ll begin developing various extracts with different chemical profiles tailored for certain conditions. It’s expected that these extracts will be taken as oral drops or inhaled as vapour.” “To date, medicinal cannabis products have greatly varied, from the strain used to how they are delivered to patients. To tackle this, we are helping Cann Group develop a manufacturing process that will produce consistent, qualitycontrolled products that will be suitable for clinical trials,” said the spokesperson. “In addition to learning more about the potential side effects and the best way to use medicinal cannabis, the results of large clinical trials will make it easier for doctors to prescribe it to patients. This means that medicinal cannabis will be accessible to the people who need it most.” Source: CSIRO

18 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


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Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 19


INDUSTRY RAISES GLASS TO HELP SECURE FOOD FUTURE To develop the next crop of horticulture growers and meet rising food demand, Hort Innovation and Western Sydney University have combined forces to launch the nation’s first state-of-the-art vegetable glasshouse-production research centre. Officially opened in November by Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Anne Ruston with Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres, the National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre comprises a $7M glasshouse that will house various industry-driven research and development projects and university course material. The research glasshouse features eight temperature-controlled chambers and transitional glass that adjusts in colour with exterior light levels. Researchers aim to produce the highest possible commercialyields with minimal energy, labour, nutrients and water outputs. Hort Innovation chief executive John Lloyd said the combination of an ageing horticultural industry with a fast-moving technological landscape and a rising global demand for food means the Vegetable Protected Cropping

Centre has never been more critical. “The expected findings that will come out of this centre are exciting. Researchers will work to manipulate inputs to create the optimum environment to drive maximum harvest windows and overall yield for a variety of vegetables, then share this information with Australia’s growers,” he said. “This facility also aims to attract new entrants to the horticulture industry by showcasing some of the most advanced technology currently available. The current demand for skilled glasshouse labour exceeds supply and this gap is only expected to widen. Current and future Western Sydney University students will have the opportunity to be at the forefront of this exciting time in Australian food production history.” Protected Cropping Australia deputy chair Mark Massey said it was fantastic to see the ambitious project come to fruition. “Protected cropping is a fastgrowing industry because it offers the potential to grow more produce in an environment where pests and external weather influences can largely be controlled,” he said. “Setting up a glasshouse, however, is an investment, so knowing what the ideal temperature, water,

20 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

nutrient and light levels are for different types of vegetables will certainly provide a great benefit to the industry.” Western Sydney University ViceChancellor, Professor Barney Glover, said the University is excited about the facility, which complements its long history in agriculture and horticulture research and education at the Hawkesbury campus, dating back to 1891. “The Hawkesbury campus is located on the peri-urban fridge of Sydney – perfectly placed for conducting research and education to help drive Australia’s future horticulture productivity,” said Professor Glover. “Until now nothing has been developed locally to specifically suit Australia’s harsh climate. This essential piece of scientific infrastructure for Australia is only possible through our partnership with Hort Innovation.” “The Glasshouse and National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre cement the University’s reputation as a national leader in horticulture research and education and continues our proud history of agriculture research and teaching at Hawkesbury.”


1

2

3

4 SNAP HAPPY WINNERS In September, Hoogendoorn organised a photo contest to celebrate its 50th anniversary, which allowed customers to win a free consultation session. Customers around the world were

5 invited to take a picture at their favourite place in the greenhouse and add a motivation up to 150 words. The company has now announced the five winners: 1) Agro Invest - Russia

2) Seedcare - The Netherlands 3) Orangeline Farms - Canada 4) Drama Greenhouses – Greece 5) Novosibirsk - Russia The Hoodgendoorn team congratulates the winners and thanks everyone who entered.

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 21


The farm gate value of Queensland’s agricultural industries is $15.54 billion for primary industry commodities.

QUEENSLAND’S AGRICULTURAL SECTOR CLOSES IN ON $20 BILLION MARK Queensland’s agriculture, fisheries and forestry production has now almost reached the record level of $20 billion for the 2016 & 2017 financial year. Acting Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and Minister for Regional Economic Development Leeanne Enoch said the $19.95 billion figure was 20 per cent greater than the average for the past five years. “The Palaszczuk Government has been committed to support the

growth of Queensland’s agricultural industries – because these industries provide jobs and prosperity to the whole state – and importantly to our regional and rural areas,” Ms Enoch said. “This is despite continuing dry conditions, drought and pest and disease incursions, demonstrating the sector’s resilience. “The farm gate value is $15.54 billion for primary industry commodities and $4.41 billion for first-stage processing and valueadding, including dairy processing, meat processing, sawmilling and cotton ginning.” The statistics are contained in the Department of Agriculture and

22 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

Fisheries’ Annual Report, which was recently tabled by the current Minister in Parliament. Ms Enoch said the government remained committed to programs that continued the rise of the agricultural sector. “Our government has provided a total of $77.96 million over five years to the Rural Assistance Package,” she said. “Under this package, Queensland’s sheep and wool industry has seen an increase of 213,000 sheep into the state flock and the generation of 45 full-time jobs in our western communities. This is all at a time of extremely dry weather for much of the state – but shows the


CULTILENE ACQUIRES A PLACE IN THE WORLD HORTI CENTER

determination of the industry to continue to innovate and work hard to achieve growth. “DCAP is bringing together the best climate scientists, cutting-edge research, government and industry leaders to help producers improve their climate risk management and long-term preparedness strategies which will ultimately benefit the future productivity of the agribusiness sector.” Ms Enoch said rural exports were currently valued at $9.76 billion during 2016/17, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries hosted two trade missions and 19 overseas delegations promoting agricultural trade and investment opportunities.

Cooperation, innovation and inspiration are essential to inspire new developments in horticulture to help to solve the global food issue. Because of this Cultilene has recently become a participant in the Demokwekerij Westland (Dutch demonstration nursery). Effectively, this means the company will have a place in the new World Horti Center. “The world and especially the horticultural sector is facing some major challenges. In the next 40 years, the people of the world will need more food than they needed in the last 10,000 years”, said Peter La Vos, Commercial and Marketing Director at Cultilene. ‘The decreasing availability of water means that we will have to use it more efficiently. And we’ll also have to reduce CO2 emissions’. Cultilene is certain that horticulture can help in these objectives. Mr La Vos stresses, however, that joining forces will be essential to achieve this. “It is precisely by joining forces, inspiring and cooperating with each other on innovation that new ideas are developed and innovations can be viewed from various perspectives. It is this process that will produce

the best solutions for these complex issues. What makes the World Horti Center unique is that all of the relevant parties – students, government agencies, growers and suppliers etc. are being brought together at a single location to exchange knowledge and stimulate ideas. This is why we are proud to be part of the Demokwekerij Westland.”

A hot spot for horticulture The Demokwekerij is one of the initiators of the Word Horti Center in The Netherlands at Honselersdijk that will open this autumn and where all of the activities of the Demokwekerij will be based. Cultilene will have a stand at this international hot spot for horticulture, where the private sector, educational institutions and government agencies will join forces in inspiring each other to create innovation. This stand will display both the substrate and glass products supplied by Cultilene. “We’re looking forward to welcoming people here so that we can work together on innovation and advancing progress in Horticulture,” Mr La Vos said. b

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 23


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 USE CONCRETE TANKS IN HYDROPONICS? I am planning to build a small commercial NFT (nutrient film technique) hydroponic system. I was planning to use a concrete tank to hold my recirculating nutrient solution, but I have been advised that concrete would be quite unsuitable. What is your advice? Answer The difficulty with storing hydroponic solution in a concrete tank is that the solution dissolves a small amount of the concrete. This will release some calcium ions and some hydroxide and bi-carbonate ions, which will raise the solution pH slightly. I know successful hydroponic NFT lettuce growers who have concrete tanks. They tend to run at a pH of just over 7 and don’t seem to have any deficiency problems, however, many experts strongly suggest not going over pH 7 (or some suggest a 6.5 upper limit). I am less twitchy about pH and have seen growers running NFT lettuce systems at pH 7.4 and producing what appeared to be an excellent product. Any pH rise will be strongest when the concrete is new, so it needs to be fully cured before use. By the way, the 24 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

small amount of concrete dissolved is quite insignificant in terms of the life of the tank. I have a water storage tank on my farm which is still going strong after over 40 years continual use. It is possible to avoid the pH issue by sealing the tank surface in contact with the solution. There are epoxy or bitumen type products, which will do this. When painting take great care not to be exposed to the fumes. In an open tank use a good fan to remove the fumes. In a closed tank with a manhole it would be best to use an air fed helmet and always have someone on watch outside. When the coating is cured, fill and discard a tankful of water to remove any dissolved chemicals, which might be toxic to your plants. The other choice of tank is plastic, but ensure that you get one from a reputable supplier. Another choice is a steel tank, but this needs to be coated (but not galvanised, which will lead to zinc toxicity). Even when coated sometimes steel tanks have a relatively shorter life. To make use of gravity return flow, NFT tanks are often buried in the ground. Here you need to be careful as to where the ground water level might reach in heavy rain or flood. If too high the rising water can ‘pop’ the tank causing damage to the tank, pumps and fittings. One advantage of a concrete tank is that the extra weight gives some added protection here.


Question WHAT ARE THE NPK FIGURES ON FERTILISER BAGS? I find many references to the NPK analyses in articles and on hydroponic forums. I get confused when I try to use them when calculating the ppm (parts per million) that I would get by dissolving these fertilisers. Please explain what these actual figures? Answer You need to take care with the NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) figures on fertiliser bags because they do not give the percentages of P and K that are actually in the fertiliser. What the figures actually mean are: N = per cent N in the fertiliser, P = per cent P2O5 in the fertiliser, K = percent K2O in the fertiliser. These figures are a remnant of the analytical method used one hundred years ago when the method involved converting P and K into their oxides. There is actually no P2O5 or K2O in the fertiliser. Why this antiquated system is still used I don’t know. To convert the P2O5 to percent P multiply by 0.44. To convert the K2O to percent K multiply by 0.83. These are the figures, which you must use when making any fertiliser calculations. They should also be printed elsewhere on the bag, usually on the back. Mixing hydroponic fertilisers is very practical, and is not a theoretical exercise. When calculating how much fertiliser to use to give a certain nutrient formulation in parts per million (ppm) it

is essential to not use the analysis given in books, which are quite often for pure chemicals. The figures to use are those printed upon your fertiliser bag. The textbook formula for pure calcium nitrate is: Ca (NO) 3.4H2O Many academics and growers (especially those with some background in chemistry) use this formula for making nutrient calculations. It is also commonly found in hydroponic books and articles, especially those on the Internet. If this formula is used the calculations will give the following calculated individual nutrient analyses: Calcium Ca++ = 16.9 % Ca Nitrogen N as nitrate (NO3-) = 11.9 % N Nitrogen N as ammonium (NH4+) = 0 % N Unfortunately for all commercial grades of calcium nitrate (even the best greenhouse grades) this formula is wrong. Because of the method of manufacture there is some ammonium ion in the fertiliser and an approximation of the actual formula is 5[Ca (NO) 3.2H2O] NH4NO3 Its analysis can vary somewhat between manufacturers, but is typically about Calcium Ca++ = 19 % Ca Nitrogen N as nitrate (NO3-) = 14.4 % N Nitrogen N as ammonium (NH4-) = 1.1 % N The textbook formula is badly wrong in that it ignores the ammonium content, which is very important, especially in terms of pH drift. Also it significantly understates the percentage of nitrate and calcium. This highlights the necessity of using the analysis as supplied on the bag by the fertiliser manufacturer when calculating nutrient formulations. b RD

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 25


26 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


Sustainable growing in the EU THE rECENT ErIAFFÂ CONFErENCE 2017 IN THE NETHErlANDS HIGHlIGHTED HOW SUSTAINABlE GrOWING SYSTEmS IN THE EU ArE GAINING IN POPUlArITY AND HOW THE DUTCH GrEENHOUSE SECTOr IS lEADING THE WAY. BY CHrISTINE BrOWN-PAUl

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 27


According to many industry experts, agriculture and horticulture offer the solutions for tomorrow’s challenges: sufficient produce for the world’s growing population and sustainable production methods with reduced use of raw materials and less emissions. The significant competitive advantage that this offers is still unrecognised: a sustainable reputation amongst consumers. In June this year, the ERIAFF (European Regions for Innovation in Agriculture, Food and Forestry) held its conference in The Netherlands. ERIAFF is an EU network that represents the concerns of Europe’s regions that recognise the importance of agriculture, forestry and the food industry. The goal of ERIAFF is to promote innovative applications in these sectors. With its theme, ‘Feeding and Greening the City’, the conference offered an opportunity to everyone in the agricultural and food sector from all European regions to exchange knowledge and meet partners and stakeholders. The conference included business-to-business meet-ups, in-depth workshops, poster presentations, site visits, a product/fresh market and relevant international keynote speakers. It also provided networking opportunities for agricultural entrepreneurs, researchers and regional governments. “Agriculture and horticulture are the European drivers for health and nutrition. These sectors feed and green the city. Advancements in agriculture and horticulture contribute to global food security, global food safety and improvements to the quality of urban environments and health,” said conference spokesperson Adri BomLemstra of South Holland. “Innovation, technical improvements and international partnerships are key to further development of European agriculture and horticulture. The regions in The Netherlands were able to showcase many aspects of efficient and advanced Dutch horticulture sector at ERIAFF 2017. 

SUSTAINABlE HOrTICUlTUrE FOr TOmOrrOW Vertical horticulture, seaweed as sustenance, organic crop protection, producing plant varieties that are resistant to draught, disease and plagues, efficient cultivation using Big Date, energy-neutral greenhouses and removing CO2 from the greenhouse cultivation industry – were all topics outlined during the conference, which was organised by the Westland municipality and the South Holland and North Holland provinces. “Specialists from throughout Europe discussed the 28 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


The ERIAFF conference had as its them 'Feeding and Greening the City."

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 29


urgent challenges as part of the theme ‘Feeding and Greening the City’: cities and the global population are growing, the demand for food as well as prosperity are increasing and this is met with a limited amount of fresh water and raw materials. This leads to a number of issues. To what extent is urban farming a part of the solution? What is the balance between biology and technology? Which challenges do retailers face and how can the consumer help? What should we bring to the attention of Brussels and how can we move forward together?” said Mr Bom-Lemstra. “It is clear that production must be increased in the areas surrounding cities and that the entire process, from seed to package, is becoming increasingly sustainable. “A growing number of European consumers are seeing the importance of organic and healthy produce. Still, consumers and even retailers are often unaware that a good number of companies are already producing sustainably. The image of energy-draining greenhouses is still widely accepted even though continuously more greenhouses are working with energy-neutral systems, including the application of organic pesticides,” he said. “We want to bring the sustainable efforts that many producers have already embraced to the attention of Europe. These sustainable production methods can strengthen the operations of agricultural and horticultural businesses. At the same time, this also provides marketing opportunities by means of a sustainable image.”

AN ImPOrTANT rOlE FOr HOrTICUlTUrE IN BrUSSElS The conference was a key step in giving horticulture a more important role in European agricultural policy and in European issues. Participating countries all agreed: the sector has an exceptional amount of potential. Successful cooperation between American entrepreneurs, government and scientists is essential to finding solutions to the issues that the sector currently faces. “The sector must be able to continue innovating in order to meet consumer demands as well as the increasingly strict European environmental legislation,” said delegated conference host Jaap Bond of North Holland. “Agricultural and horticultural businesses already have the solutions for large social issues such as sufficient and healthy food for a growing global population. The sector hosts huge opportunities to reduce emissions and the use of raw materials; investing in warmth and CO2 grids for example. In this way we can provide a significant contribution to the climate agreement. To realise this, 30 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


Site visits were a popular part of the program at the conference.

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 31


horticulture needs increased financial and policy control. This is what we would like to highlight in Brussels.”

THE NETHErlANDS: lEADING COUNTrY IN HOrTICUlTUrE According to Sjaak van der Tak, Mayor of Westland, the Dutch greenhouse sector has much to offer European horticulture. “In terms of sustainable production we are leading the sector. In Westland for example, we grow a kilo of tomatoes using four litres of water while 20 litres is required in other places. We encourage our greenhouse horticulturists to share their knowledge and expertise within the ERIAFF network,” he said.b

32 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


The conference was a key step in giving horticulture a more important role in European agricultural policy and in European isssues.

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 33


We’re all part of a huge living canvas that nature is painting on


Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November . 2017. 35


36 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


BUILDING THE DREAM

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 37


Tasman Bay Herbs specialise in a range of herb products.

In the face of formidable challenges, Tasman Bay Herbs today supplies 30 different varieties of culinary herbs and salad green to supermarkets across New Zealand. From a random encounter with a book on hydroponics 13 years ago, Don Grant and his then wife, Yoka De Houwer, went from 375 square metres of glasshouse in New Zealand’s Riwaka’s Dehra Doon valley to about 5000sqm growing fresh herbs hydroponically – under the banner of Tasman Bay Herbs – for supermarkets from Auckland to Queenstown. “Yoka loved to cook but couldn’t buy fresh herbs in any supermarkets,” Don said.

Vanessa, a worker at Tasman Bay Herbs, harvesting rocket (Arugula) for its Racy Rocket bags.

38 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

“We discovered a demand from restaurants for fresh herbs so bought two hectares at Riwaka, 7km from Motueka and built a small 375sqm greenhouse to grow culinary herbs.” These days Tasman Bay Herbs produces some of the freshest, most in-demand herbs in the country, however, their path to success has not been without its challenges. Although not formally trained in business, they did have a passion to learn. “We enrolled in a two-week seminar in Nelson to learn how to run a small business,” said Don. “One day at lunch time Yoka saw a book on hydroponics.


PRACTICAL

PONICS & GREENHOUSES

Pania, picking calendulas, which Tasman Bay Herbs uses as edible flowers in its Salad Daze bags. We were hooked on growing that way immediately. No weeds, no bending down, faster production, clean produce. We didn’t know anything about hydroponics and it has been quite a journey.” “The vision at the start was to supply local Nelson restaurants. Yoka was quite happy with this while I immediately wanted to get larger and supply restaurants all over NZ.” From the start, the idea behind Tasman Bay Herbs was to be the best, the freshest, and the most innovative in the market. “We launched into retail in March 1997 at New World Motueka, and that same year we were the first company in New Zealand to have salad in bags. We were also the first to supply them in breathable bags, which keeps the product much fresher and a longer shelf life,” he said. “I think we’re reasonably good growers now – certainly our products are the best available.” “We’ve never been able to keep up with demand in the winter. That’s why we want to keep expanding. People are

Help us help you make our world a greener place. If you would like to advertise here: Contact Mark Lewis Tel: +613 9432-5428 Email: marklewis@hydroponics.com.au

Changing our world one step at a time.

Don and Bryce being presented their Ora grant by Westpac’s Damian Sharkey. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 39


Chervil

Basil

Fennel

Edible Flowers

Rocket

Thyme

Mint

Watercres

40 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

constantly telling us how they go into their supermarkets and can’t buy our rocket, or watercress as it often sells out within a day of arriving,” Don said. “Our staff are the key to our success. We have a wonderful team of 17 who genuinely care about the herbs they produce, the quality that goes into each packet and the welfare of each member of that team. “That has been one of the major delights – building a business rurally that employs locals and giving back to the community,” he said. Sadly, tragedy struck in 2010 when Ms De Houwer was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Subsequently, she sold her half of Tasman Bay Herbs to Bryce Gilchrist, a former general manager of corporate affairs for NZ King Salmon. In 2013, Mrs De Houwer passed away. Following this, Don and Bryce became full partners, with Don looking after the marketing and day-to-day operations, while Bryce takes care of the planning, HR, and financial side. In 2015, as testament to their hard work and vision, Tasman Bay Herbs was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Ora Dreams Project, an initiative established to fuel the dreams of Kiwi businesses. “(This grant) helped us connect with our consumers – especially in the cities. We’re from rural NZ, an idyllic area where life is a little slower,” Don said. “We’d love to learn what our consumers think of our herbs, get them sharing recipes online, asking us questions about herbs and learning all about the health benefits you get from fresh herbs through Facebook, our website, and other social media.” “We’d like to be at the forefront of the culinary herb industry, and to be in at least one supermarket or produce store in every town and city in New Zealand,” he said. b


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42 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


REAPING THE REWARDS A NEW HArVEST AID IS STrEAmlINING STrAWBErrY OPErATIONS AT PIñATA FArmS.

Stanthorpe berry manager Colin Humphreys.

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 43


Piñata produces strawberries at both Wamuran and Stanthorpe.

A harvesting innovation introduced at leading Queensland strawberry producer Piñata Farms for the first time during winter has reaped rewards for labour management despite a challenging season for the region’s producers, according to general manager roger Turner. Mr Turner said AgPick, a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) hand-held harvesting system developed and manufactured by Adelaide’s Agricultural Picking Technology was introduced to support the company’s decision to manage most of its own seasonal pickers this year. Piñata Farms provided daily work for an average of 140 pickers at its Wamuran, Sunshine Coast farm between May and September. However, due to the high turnover associated with a workforce of backpackers who averaged only a few weeks before moving on, those positions were filled by more than 450 people. 44 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

“We made the conscious decision, as an ethical business, to hire seasonal workers directly, rather than use labour hire companies, some of whose practices have become questionable,” Mr Turner said. “As a high volume of strawberries was produced in south-east Queensland over winter due to seasonal conditions, the whole industry needed more workers than ever.”

In-field scanning tracks trays as picked “In the strawberry industry, pickers are paid by the tray. We had to look for a way to efficiently and accurately record the number of trays picked in the field and match them to the right picker. During the season’s peak, some 12,000 trays a day were picked,” Mr Turner said. AgPick meant trays were scanned in the field during harvest with the data uploaded via a live feed.


PRACTICAL

PONICS & GREENHOUSES

MAKING OUR WORLD GREENER

“The system is fairly new to the market and, to date has mainly been used in grape production. Piñata Farms is the first strawberry producer to implement it. It has capably met our primary objective to streamline the payroll function,” he said. “We managed an additional 140-plus daily staff in the field without increasing our payroll costs. We didn’t have to put on extra people or reallocate resources to deal with the influx of individual payments which have previously been managed by a labour hire contractor.”Technology benefits stack up “There have also been several side benefits. The live feed from the paddock tells us, which blocks have been picked, how many trays have been picked and who picked them. That’s important information used to analyse and review the season and plan for the next,” Mr Turner said. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 45


Previously, a labour hire company recorded tray numbers, manually or digitally, and provided when harvested fruit arrived at the packhouse. Two people are required to operate the AgPick scanners in the field, following minimal training. “A SIM card in the scanning handset uploads the data via mobile phone technology to the cloud, providing instant access from any location,” Mr Turner said. “Given the enormity of managing our own labour during strawberry season, the system’s impact has been significant.” Agricultural Picking Technology chief executive officer, Henrietta Child, said AgPick was launched in May, following extensive development and testing.  “With a background in the wine grape industry, we saw a need for improving the labour management of hand-based farming operations,” Ms Child said. “The combination of RFID technology and payroll integration provides operators with far more information than they are used to. It’s all about enabling producers to know what they are spending on a block and if the cost and yield is justified. “As a farming innovator which really understands technology, Piñata Farms is an excellent partner for a young company,” she said.  Mr Turner said AgPick would be implemented within a few weeks at the Stanthorpe farm, which produced the summer strawberry crop. Piñata Farms produces strawberries all year ‘round. “As it’s configurable across other product lines, we’ll also look at using it to track and record harvesting activities during the upcoming Honey Gold mango season,” he said. Based at the Sunshine Coast, Piñata Farms is also Australia’s largest pineapple producer and has the exclusive rights to grow specialty Honey Gold mangoes. It employs about 70 full-time staff and up to 350 seasonal workers. About 100 people are employed in the Wamuran packing shed during strawberry season where employees are paid by the number of punnets they pack. b

About Piñata Farms Piñata Farms is a proud Queensland farming business with origins dating back to the 1960s in the state’s southeast. Founded by pineapple farmer Geoff Scurr at Wamuran, Piñata Farms is now operated by Geoff’s sons, Gavin and Stephen Scurr. Piñata Farms is the largest pineapple producer in Australia, one of the largest strawberry producers and holds the breeding rights to grow specialty Honey Gold mangoes, produced in every mainland state except South Australia. 46 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

Pinata’s strawberry crop at Wamuran.


Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 47


With some 20 years' experience in horticulture, Colin oversees all preparation for Stanthorpe's summer strawberry crop.

Piñata Farms’ general manager Roger Turner.

HEAr THE PIñATA FArmS PODCAST Queensland fruit producer Piñata Farms regularly produces podcasts featuring its farm workers right along the supply chain talking about their work in a “walk a mile in my shoes” conversational style. The latest podcast episode features an interview with Stanthorpe berry manager Colin Humphreys who talks about growing Pinata’s summer crop inside polytunnels and using the substrate method of producing fruit on tabletops. LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST at: https://soundcloud.com/user750319665/strawberry-world or on the Piñata Farms podcast page for all: http://www.pinata.com.au/podcast

48 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


GREENING THE CAMPS A NEWlY ESTABlISHED, NON-PrOFIT OrGANISATION DESIGNS, DEVElOPS, CONSTrUCTS AND mAINTAINS rOOFTOP GArDENS IN PAlESTINIAN rEFUGEE CAmPS.

Amman, capital of Jordan.

50 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


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Agriculture is an important cultural tradition and heritage of the Palestinian refugee communities. The long running Israeli-Palestinian conflict has caused displaced communities to lose the connection with private food production and affordable organic food. The dense concrete fabric of the refugee camps lacks the space and fertile earth for sustainable agriculture. This scarcity of green space in combination with a regional water shortage has caused a real and lasting disconnection between agriculture and a generation that has known only the camps. Rooftop gardens address this directly by creating a green oasis where a family or community can take charge of its own food provision, find rest and foster their connection with the natural world. Greening the Camps is a newly established non-profit organisation that designs, develops, constructs and maintains rooftop gardens in Palestinian refugee camps. The project, entirely run by volunteers experienced in architecture and permaculture, is driven by a passion for environmental care and an understanding of urban design and its toolsets. “Overall unemployment and the serious lack of self-esteem among women and youth in the refugee camps are pressing problems,” said Greening the Camps team member Joric Docters van Leeuwen. “Our project encourages engagement of women, youth and children in green and organic food production methods. The entire process is from start to finish designed with the families who own the rooftops. Improvements to food security, livelihood, creating a safe haven for women, youth and children and empowering people to explore and develop their talents and creativity are our ambitions. As a result, one of our core principles is the involvement of the families in every step of designing and building the gardens. “Opening our first experimental 52 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


The Palestinian refugee camp of Ain El-Helweh, near the southern Lebanese coastal city of Sidon.

Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 53


Rooftop garden in Palestinian refugee camp in Amman.

54 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

garden on the rooftop of ‘Jadal for Knowledge and Culture’ in Jordan’s capital, Amman enriched us with the essential experience of urban farming in the challenging natural conditions of the Middle East. Meeting a great amount of people that share a similar mindset and vision gives our team the motivation to start with the next phase: implementing the urban farming project in Jerash Refugee Camp,” he said. “Our teamwork and belief in the philosophy and purpose of this project and its ability to help communities prosper and grow is our fuel to make it a success. “Sharing and gathering knowledge, as well as creating a truly sustainable livelihood are closely linked with our devotion to enrich impoverished urban and camp areas. The multi-layered process is, on every level, guided by the ideas and desires of the local community with whom we work. Through reconnecting displaced communities with food production from urban agricultural practices, we try to create opportunities for local empowerment and economic development,” Mr van Leeuwen said. “With the help of donations, we will add a next chapter to Greening The Camps’ story. We are currently working on our Pilot Project in the camp by greening the rooftop of a vocational training school. This school will enable Palestinian refugees in the camp to learn new professional and creative skills. “This initiative offers an open platform for learning and a social space where cultural activities and sharing knowledge is key. The cooperation between Greening The Camps and the vocational school will turn the rooftop into a great meeting point for people who share


a similar mindset and vision and who are interested in the project,” he said. “By organising workshops about urban agriculture, creative waste management, building and maintaining installations and growing and harvesting crops, we aim to excite members of the community in taking part in the project. Within the next six months our goal is to build three additional rooftop gardens in cooperation with families. We will develop gardens that have been designed to be constructed with the bare minimum of funding.

rISKS AND CHAllENGES According to Mr van Leeuwen, an important obstacle the camp is facing is water shortage. With only 60 cubic metres of renewable water resources available annually per capita, Jordan is among the most water-scarce nations in the world. To supply adequate amounts of water for drinking, sanitation, industry, and agriculture, the World Bank estimates an annual per capita threshold of 1,000 cubic metres. On top of that, Jerash governorate has the lowest average of water share per capita within Jordan, with only 71 litres per day. “The country is already being confronted with the effects of climate change and its resources are expected to diminish even further. At the same time, Jordan’s population is continuing to increase and the country has received more than 655,000 refugees since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. Factors such as these have resulted in the systematic overuse of its water resources for many years,” he said. “If the nature and the extent of water usage are not reversed soon, the water security of Jordan’s population will be at serious risk. We will solve this problem with at least two available techniques: rainwater harvesting and the reuse of greywater. “Since winter is the only season with rainfall, we will accompany rainwater harvesting with the reuse of greywater from washing machines, kitchen sinks and showers, to flush toilets and irrigate crops. These two solutions will ensure that we will have adequate water supplies throughout the year,” Mr van Leeuwen said. b For more information or to make a donation visit: facebook.com/GreeningTheCamps  twitter.com/GreeningCampsgreeningthecamps.com

Greening the camps

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COLOURMETRIC ANALYSIS AlEx HArrISON ExPlAINS HOW HYDrOPONIC SOlUTIONS ArE ANAlYSED USING PHOTOmETrIC AND COlOUrmETrIC mETHODS.

In an early article in Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses (On-Farm Nutrient Analysis, Issue 35), the Atomic Absorbtion Spectrophotometer (AAS) was described as a method of analysing the hydroponic solution. Before AAS was developed, the instrumental method of analysis based on ultraviolet/visible (UV/Vis) spectroscopy was being used for decades by scientists in laboratories around the world. This method is called colourmeteric analysis, which uses a photometer or spectrophotometer to measure the intensity of the colour in the solution after specific chemicals have been added.

What is Colourmetric Analysis and UV/Vis Spectroscopy? UV/VIS SPECTrOSCOPY In spectroscopy, when a molecule or compound is in the path of a light source, that molecule will react with that light to absorb, reflect or transmit portions of that light (See Fig 1 below). All atoms and molecules will react in this fashion.

When certain types of molecules come into contact with ions (nutrient), the structure of the molecule changes. This change in structure will affect how that molecule absorbs or transmits the light. The reaction of some of these molecules is such that the change is very easily seen by the naked eye. In some cases, the change is so sensitive that one part in a billion can be measured (i.e. it can detect 1ppb or 1Âľg per L). Generally, levels down to parts per million are easily measured. Some different ions (nutrients) will react in the same or similar way with the molecule. This will lead to interference with the measurement, and result in a higher level being found of the desired ion (nutrient). In chemistry, this is overcome by using other molecules that

56 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


bind the interfering ions (nutrients), so they do not interfere with the desired reaction. An example would be in the analysis of phosphate in water. Here, silicates will react with the molybdate complexes to form the same blue colour as phosphates. So we must bind up the Silicates in such a way that they will not react with the molybdate complexes.

SPECTrOPHOTOmETErS AND PHOTOmETErS Measurement of the colour complexes is done with a photometer or spectrophotometer. These devices measure the amount of light that has reacted with the solution containing the colour complexes. These instruments are made up of various parts. Some will be set out differently from others and some will include extra components. But basically, all will have a light source, filters, sample holder, a detector and a digital read-out.

lIGHT SOUrCE This is to provide a broad spectrum of wavelengths, from the ultraviolet to the near infrared of the spectrum. Figure 2 shows the spectral range of three different light sources. The tungsten lamp is the most commonly used light source. The need for the wide range of wavelengths is to provide an economical source of light. In AAS, in order for each metal (or element) to be examined, a separate Lamp was needed. Here however, the one light source provides for the whole range of wavelengths needed. This leads to the use of filters to remove the unwanted wavelengths of light.

There are two ways of filtering the light source: â&#x20AC;˘ Absorption filters, which only allow a set range of wavelengths to pass through the filter; i.e. 400-420nm. They are generally made from glass or plastic, with a component to set the range of transmission. â&#x20AC;˘ Monochromators are the most versatile of the filters. They are designed to separate the light and focus the wavelength needed onto the sample. There are various techniques, from prisms to diffraction gratings. After filtering, the light is passed through the sample to the detector. Generally, the sample is held in a plastic or glass curvette, which have been designed to be clear for the spectral ranges they are used in. Certain types of glass are used in the UV range of the spectrum, while some plastics work well in the visible part of the spectrum. The detectors are transducers, which convert electromagnetic radiation into electrical signals. There are several types of detectors, photovoltaic cells, solidstate photodiodes, photo-emissive tubes and photomultiplier tubes. Each will have different spectral sensitivity, wavelength response, gain and response time. The electrical signal from the detector is then displayed on a digital LCD in one of two forms: Absorbance or Transmittance. The relation between them is by the formulae: Abs - log I/T - log I/Io Where: Abs is the Absorbance, T is the Transmittance, I is the final Intensity of the light, and Io is the initial intensity of the light. Figure 3, on next page, shows that the relationship of absorbance to concentration is fairly linear. Note that as concentration increases, the linear relationship is lost to a flattening curve. However, Transmittance is exponential - very high at low concentration, going low as the concentration increases. This makes using absorbance as a measure fairly easy to work with, when the concentration of the solution is in the correct range to give a linear relationship.

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CAlIBrATION OF THE SPECTrOPHOTOmETEr The calibration of the spectrophotometer is critical to getting correct results. This is done by making known standards and measuring them on the spectrophotometer. The results are then plotted on a graph or with a linear regression program, where the unknown is correlated from the data. Certain spectrophotometers have a linear regression program integrated into the machine.

Advantages and disadvantages The advantages of colourmetric analysis over AAS are that the non-metals (e.g. phosphorus, nitrogen, chloride) are easily measured. Also, differing oxidation states can be measured, for example nitrate and nitrite can be measured separately. The levels of detection are comparable for some of the metals. The other main advantage is that you are not working with any dangerous gases like acetylene or nitrosoxide. In traditional colourmetric analysis, there are some disadvantages. These are complex or time consuming methods to prepare the samples for measurement on the spectrophotometer. Others are some of the toxic chemicals used. An example is for the analysis of ammonium ions, where a mecuric compound is made to react with the ammonium ion, resulting in a brown coloured solution. With advances in science, the uses of the toxic chemicals have been reduced or eliminated from the

58 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


analytical methods. So this makes colourmetric analysis safer for the people performing the analysis, as well as for the environment. The most significant advance by science has been the fact that certain companies have been able to remove the complex methods. This means that tablets or ampoules need only to be added to the sample. After a specified amount of time, the sample is measured on the spectrophotometer and the result is either displayed directly in mg/L, or in absorbance or transmittance, which are then referred to a calibration chart. There is only one thing that this technique will not detect and that is electrical conductivity. Sodium can be done, but the required compounds are toxic and expensive. Good sensitivity is found using Ion-Selective Electrodes for sodium.

CONClUSION Being able to have the equipment and techniques that can obtain results within an hour or less, can be a great advantage in the hydroponics (or any agricultural) industry. The grower can monitor the crop and make changes to the solution accordingly, or take other action, as in foliar sprays to compensate for changes in the climate. Being able to measure the nutrient level of the solution in a recycling system will tell when that solution needs to be renewed. Other advantages are knowing exactly when to change the nitrogen to potassium ratio through the life of the crop, and as the season changes. In terms of my own experience, I have been using equipment that performs colourmetric analysis for all of the nutrients that are required for plants to grow. This equipment is completely portable and has detection limits that rival or surpass AAS. I have been able to develop methods which will perform complete soil and water analysis with the equipment, as well as adapt the equipment to perform an analysis of hydroponic solutions. In the case of the major nutrients, plant sap can also be analysed.

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THE FINAL WORD AN OPINION PIECE BY Dr mIKE NICHOlS.

The consumerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s insistence on the cosmetic appearance of the product has become an important selection criteria for the plant breeder. 60 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017


Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 61


Plant breeders are experimenting with new colours in vegetables and fruits to appeal to consumer tastes.

The bulk of health-giving antioxidants are found in the skin of vegetables and fruit.

62 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017

Horticulture is a cosmetic industry. No, I don’t mean that it is a lipstick and powder industry, or refer to the fact that horticulture has an ornamental/landscape arm and also a cut flower discipline. I am referring to the fact that fruit and vegetable customers buy with their eyes. Appearance (shape and evenness and colour, predominantly). This became more apparent to me when I attended the Southeast Asian Vegetable Symposium (SEAVEG2016) in Kuala Lumpur last year. It appears that our vegetable breeders (in the main) have not been selecting for the right things. We eat fruit and vegetables because we like them, and because they provide us with a wide range of essential minerals and antioxidants, which are so essential for our continuing good health. However, it is apparent that the consumer’s insistence on the cosmetic appearance of the product has become an important selection criteria for the plant breeder. An interesting example of this is the selection of the new blueberry variety called Blueberry Burst®. This variety has a larger than normal fruit, which will, at the very least decrease harvesting costs, but may also result in a lower level of anthocyanins in the fruit. Certainly, the smaller low bush blueberry with its much smaller fruit than the high bush blueberry has a much higher anthocyanin content than the current high bush blueberry. As the bulk of the antioxidants are found in the skin, then with all other things being equal, the smaller the berry the better!!! If consumers eat blueberries predominantly because they are a super fruit (i.e. high in antioxidants), then perhaps they should change their diet to purple carrots at $1-2/kg as opposed to the much more expensive blueberry at perhaps $40-50/kg.


BlUEBErrY BUrST® Blueberry Burst (Vaccinium sp.) is an Australian-bred Dwarf Blueberry characterised by its extremely large fruit size, high yielding, early season flowering and early season harvest, which makes it unique. The fruit is a crisp fleshed, sweet fruit, harvested over three to four months resulting in a constant supply of delicious, healthy fruit, filled with antioxidants. This variety is an evergreen, dwarfing variety and is ideal for pots and tubs. It is selfpollinating and because of its low chilling requirement can be grown anywhere in Australia. If planted in autumn to late winter, the plant has the potential to supply blueberries in that very same winter. Blueberry Burst will be available soon and has been growing in trials in both warmer and cooler climates in the north and south of Australia with great success.

Features: • Blueberry Burst is three times larger than its retail competitors. • Suitable for both warm and cold climates. • The bush has a contained growth habit, the plant growing about 80cm high and 75cm wide.

Blueberry Bush has a larger than normal fruit. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . November & December . 2017. 63


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