PONICS & GREENHOUSES The Commercial Growers’ Magazine
FUNCTIONAL FOODS: foods of the future? SCALING NEW HEIGHTS
BACK IN MY OWN BACKYARD
Industrial scale indoor vertical farming
88-year-old master hydroponic grower
SCHOOL’S IN FOR AQUAPONICS
GROWING FIGS HYDROPONICALLY
Sydney students’ aquaponics project
Perennial fruit cultivation in hydroponics
From The Editor
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Foods of the future?
unctional foods have been defined as those that go beyond merely providing nutrients—they actively help prevent diseases for those at high risk, such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease. According to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the science of functional foods is the convergence of two major events in our lives— diet and health. The association between food and disease is widely recognised as the bedrock of preventive nutrition and reflects the oriental philosophy that: ‘Medicine and food have a common origin’. In this issue we look at how functional foods have the potential to improve people’s health and prevent disease. The emergence of a swathe of so-called ‘superfruits’ in recent years heralds the most significant development in this natural benefits trend—fruit and fruit ingredients as key components of healthier foods and beverages. By way of example, in our story on functional foods, we look at how the humble Queen Garnet plum in Queensland has shot to international fame thanks to its well-researched, obesity-fighting properties. According the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), the premise of the functional foods revolution is based on observations of the health benefits of consuming more fruit, vegetables and ‘whole’ foods. The RIRDC argues that Australia’s rural industries can play a more proactive and innovative role in delivering ‘health’ benefits, including added-value produce. In the 21st century and beyond, biotechnology is set to play an increasing role to produce what is known as functional foods. Despite resistance to the idea in many quarters, genetically modified foods may also carry other useful components such as genes to vaccinate consumers against important diseases. By 2050, the world population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion and, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), if we are to avoid mass malnutrition, food production will need to rise by 70 per cent. As most of the land available for food production is already under cultivation, a true revolution in farming methodology is urgently needed. Hydroponic and greenhouse technology, aquaculture and aquaponics, organic and urban farming technologies are intensive plant production systems that are all well placed to meet the challenges ahead. Greenhouse crop production is now a growing reality throughout the world with an estimated 405,000ha of greenhouses spread across the continents. Studies show that fruits and vegetables grown indoors tend to have far greater yields per area than comparable produce grown outside, with problems caused by weeds, pests and inclement weather virtually non-existent in greenhouse environments. Add technologies like hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics to the equation, and yields increase even more. With arable land becoming sparser, and global populations continuing to rise, the only direction to grow our farms is up. In this issue, we continue to trace the rise of city farming with a focus on AeroFarms – a New York-based agro business, which is taking indoor vertical farming to an industrial level. Enjoy this issue! Christine Brown-Paul Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 3
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& GREENHOUSES ISSUE 172 :: OCTOBER 2016 :: THE COMMERCIAL GROWERS’ MAGAzINE
Features Scaling new heights ...............................18 Part 2 of City Farming looks at how US-based AeroFarms is taking indoor vertical farming to an industrial level. Functional foods ..................................24 How can functional foods provide health benefits and what are the implications for hydroponic growers? Back in my own backyard ...................36 In country NSW, one 88-year-old hydroponic grower is helping to feed the disadvantaged in the community.
Hydroponic hops .................................52 In the US, Minnesota’s first hydroponically grown hops are set to revolutionise the way beer is produced. School’s in for aquaponics ..................58 Year 12 students at Sydney’s Northholm Grammar School have just celebrated their first aquaponics commercial sale First harvest .......................................66 Queensland grower Piñata Farms is picking its first substrate-grown strawberries on the Sunshine Coast.
Growing figs hydroponically
Zinc: deficiency & toxicity ...................42 Recognising deficiencies or excesses of mineral elements is key to diagnosing nutritional disorders. Growing figs in hydroponics ...............46 An exciting approach to perennial fruit cultivation in hydroponics. Sunnies for plants ..............................62 Australian researchers are developing an energy-saving glass that can be likened to sunglasses for plants. Down on the farm: Managing stress & depression ...........70 Knowing how to manage stress is key to working successfully in hydroponic and greenhouse environments.
Hydroponic hops are brewing
Departments From the Editor .....................................3 News & Products ...................................6 Reader Inquiries..................................14 Cover: Functional foods like these are believed to improve overall health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of disease.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 5
News & Products Home-grown ProDuce witHout tHe HarD work Atlanta-based start-up company, replantable has developed an innovative new home growing system – the nanofarm, which grows produce automatically, using Plant Pads, a new hydroponic growing medium that can be shipped in a standard letter envelope. Founder of the nanofarm, Ruwan Subasinghe said that Plant Pads are a replantable invention. “Consisting of multiple layers of paper and fabric, Plant Pads contain seeds and customised nutrients for
each type of plant. Much like soil, they rely on capillary action to wick water from the tray,” Mr Subasinghe said. Unlike soil, plant pads do not harbour insect eggs or pathogens such as E. coli. Plant Pads also have time-released hydroponic nutrients, so the customer only needs to add water and a crop grows from the pad. “The nanofarm is not yet in production but we are seeking to raise the funds for our first manufacturing run through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign,”
he said. “The goal is to raise at least US$50,000 for the nanofarm’s first manufacturing run. The campaign will run until 3 October 2016.” More information at: www.replantable.com
tHe PerFect climate year-rounD Light is an important issue for all greenhouse growers, as too much light can damage crops. Royal Brinkman offers an extensive range
of whitewash, including shading paint and coatings. Whitewash helps the grower minimise crop damage due to excessive light and temperatures. Research in recent years has greatly improved whitewashes and produced new coatings for greenhouses. 6 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
The Royal Brinkman range consists of: Q3-White, a medium-term weatherproof and adjustable screening product specifically designed for glass, plastic film, polycarbonate and acrylic. Q4White (long-term whitewash) for creating the optimal shading conditions. With very good weather resistance with minimal ridge wear on the apex of the greenhouse.QHeat (temperature reduction) a weatherproof, adjustable diffuse shading product that allows for maximum growth light ingress (PAR) and maximum heat reflection. QBlack (maximum shading) an adjustable dark shading agent suitable for crops and areas where maximum shading is needed. DFUSE vegetables or floriculture (diffuses light). Diffuse light penetrates deeper into the crop, providing higher production and better quality. D-GREE (diffuses light and reduces temperature) a weatherproof diffuse coating that
provides maximum diffused light and maximum growth light (PAR) transmission. Shadefix / Temperzon (low-cost powder whitewash) a whitewash in powder form, which protects the crop from light irradiation. Removit (nondangerous goods remover) is the perfect remover for removing all ‘D’ and ‘Q’ agents as above.
the trends in aquaponics in the global market, especially in key regions, including North America, Europe, China, Japan, Southeast Asia and India, with a focus on top manufacturers, showing production, price, revenue and market share for each manufacturer.The report runs to 108 pages with a single user licence priced at US$2900.
More information at: www.royalbrinkman.com.au or webshopint.royalbrinkman.com
For a sample of this report, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
global aquaPonics market The recently published Global Aquaponics Market Research Report 2021 is a must-read for anyone interested in market trends around the world in the aquaponics sector.The report offers detailed analysis of various areas of the global aquaponics market, including: Demand, Price, Cost, Sales Revenue, Gross, Gross Margin, Market size, Market share, Growth Drivers, Trends and more.This report studies
8 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
Veggies: cure For boDy oDour? Eat fresh, smell fresh – that’s the message from researchers at Macquarie University, who recently completed a new study indicating that men who eat more vegetables smell more appealing to women. By providing sweat samples to female participants to evaluate, and cross-referencing it with markers of greater fruit and vegetable intake, the study has found that eating fresh produce results in more pleasantsmelling sweat with “floral, fruity,
sweet and medicinal” qualities. “This research comes on the back of a study in 2015, which found that vegetables help to make your skin look great – so between the nutritional, aesthetic, olfactory and taste benefits, there are myriad reasons to load up your plate with fresh Australian vegetables,” said AUSVEG spokesperson Shaun Lindhe. AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers. The Macquarie University study, led by Dr Ian Stephen, asked female participants to evaluate the sweat samples on several affective, qualitative and psychophysical dimensions. This was compared to skin spectrophotometry measures for the male participants. Previous studies have found that carotenoids, which accumulate in humans through fresh vegetable consumption, contribute to the yellowness of skin in Caucasians, meaning that slightly yellower skin is a mark of greater intake of fruit and vegetables – and has also been found to increase someone’s facial attractiveness to others.
comPact trailermounteD mobile watercart Construction sites with a narrow or complex layout may present a challenge in getting equipment on
site. Smaller sites may have issues with storing equipment while waiting for deployment. Situations like these prompted TWS Hire to introduce a watercart option that enables site managers to comply with dust suppression or road cleaning regulations or general water supply, without the need to hire a full-size watercart. “Now you don’t have to hire equipment that may be larger than necessary for a water supply task, regardless of how small the work site may be. Apart from the cost factor, equipment that is larger than needed for a job takes up too much space and in doing so, introduces inefficiency that is counterproductive to the contractor’s task,” said TWS Hire’s Bill Bastian. The towable watercart is equipped with a 1,000 litre capacity tank and the same high performance Honda pump as supplied on all TWS Hire watercarts. The system is cost-effective and comes fully equipped. The trailers are fully road registered in New South Wales at two tonnes and are worksite safety compliant, fitted with LED lights, reflective taping and a tested fire extinguisher. Full insurance and compliance
certification is provided, along with risk assessment documentation. More information at: www.watercartspecialists.com.au
australian Vegetables on sHow in asia A group of export-ready vegetable growers recently flew the flag for the Australian industry at Asia Fruit Logistica, the continent’s leading trade show for the international fresh fruit and vegetable business, which was held in Hong Kong last month. The delegation united with leading growers from the wider horticulture industry under the Australia Fresh pavilion, coordinated by Horticulture Innovation Australia. The pavilion showcased high quality Australiangrown fruit, vegetable and nut produce that is in increasing demand in the region. “Vegetable exports to Hong Kong have increased to over AUD$13 million in 2015-16, up from AUD$8 million in the previous financial year.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 9
In his various positions, Abel was responsible for managing a trial station, involved with seed production, product development, planning of trials, developing crop management protocols, grafting and providing technical support to sales teams. In addition to supporting Cravo’s customers and business development team, Abel is also responsible for the operation of the Cravo Demonstration and Training Center in Culiacan Mexico. Abel can be reached at email@example.com.
sPecial oFFer on galcon gsi ag irrigation anD Fertiliser controller We are confident that participants will be able to build on this and continue strengthening business relationships in Hong Kong and other Asian markets,” said AUSVEG National Manager – Export Development Michael Coote. “The Australia Fresh pavilion was one of the highlights at the trade show, showcasing a wide variety of fresh Australian produce including broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, potatoes and pumpkins from leading growers around the country.” In addition to the trade show, participants visited a range of local retailers, importers and wholesalers to gain a deeper understanding of the Hong Kong market. “Previous trade shows in the region have resulted in strong interest for Australian vegetables from buyers in Asia and the Middle East who look for quality and safety in fresh produce,” said Mr Coote. Vegetable industry export development activities are funded through Horticulture Innovation Australia using vegetable levy funds and funds from the Australian Government.
craVo increases global tecHnical suPPort For Vegetable growers To support its commitment to their worldwide customers producing vegetables, Cravo has announced that Abel Flores has joined the business in the newly created position of ‘Global Technical Support for Vegetables’. Abel has a Degree in Biology with a specialty in Plant Health and brings to Cravo over 20 years of experience in the vegetable seed industry having worked at Grupo Ceres, DeRuiter Seeds, and Vilmorin.
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Blue Bucket is a division of ICI Industries Pty Ltd, an Australian owned company with a rich heritage in irrigation, pools and spas, greenhouse development, steel fabrication and electrical engineering. Blue Bucket offers irrigation, pool, heating, home and garden products as well as pumps and filters for all needs. Blue Bucket is offering a special deal on the Galcon GSI AG – a webbased irrigation and fertiliser controller allowing users to select fertiliser injection into open field and nursery watering systems. At the touch of a computer, tablet or
mobile phone, the user can control 24 irrigation stations and a single fertigation line. Up to eight programs can be loaded with four start times per program, loop watering, seasonal setting and even budgeting. The Galcon GSI Controller is at the peak of its game from Galcon, an industry leader in open field, domestic garden and greenhouse irrigation. Connect anywhere via your mobile phone, tablet or computer. Peace of mind at your fingertips. Now available for $1,386 reduced from $1,999. More information at: www. bluebucket.com.au
ligHt Fantastic Prestige LED Grow Solutions is an online hydroponics store with a commitment to only selling products for the best grow, every time. “With our store opening in early 2016 we recognised an expanding demand from Australians to grow
organically and in a controlled environment,” said Prestige LED Grow Solutions Managing Director, Jason Mulcahy “With the recently changed medicinal cannabis cultivation laws within Australia, we see an exciting opportunity for our country and the future of natural pharmaceuticals. Taking this into consideration we know that one of the most important factors for a good yield is the light. “Prestige LED Grow Solutions now offers the revolutionary series of Kind LED grow lights that produce the biggest and best yields, while
consuming approximately half the electricity and producing virtually no heat,” he said. “Your Kind LED Grow Light will cultivate record-breaking yields, both in quantity and quality, while running quieter, cooler, and more efficiently than any other grow light.” More information at: www.prestigeled.com.au
collectiVe innoVation For a sustainable Horticulture Collaboration among key players in the horticultural industry enables innovation and knowledge sharing. It contributes to global food security and sustainable development in developing countries. “The aim is to empower growers and investors worldwide to achieve a higher yield with better quality and less resources,” says Martin Helmich, Sales and Marketing Director of Hoogendoorn Growth Management. In the video below, Wageningen UR, Koppert Biological Systems, Rijk Zwaan and Hoogendoorn share the importance of collaborating for a sustainable future of the horticulture sector. Enabling growers to cultivate vegetables and flowers anywhere in the world, regardless the climatic conditions, is key to creating food security. Research, sustainable production systems, automation, biological crop protection and innovations in breeding and producing vegetable seeds, combined with knowledge sharing,
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 11
contribute to a better quality, an extended shelf life and less waste. Participating in training centres and demonstration projects around the globe with companies such as Wageningen UR, Koppert Biological Systems, Rijk Zwaan and Hoogendoorn show the benefits of these innovations adapted to the local circumstances. These companies each share their different perspectives on collective innovation in the video above. This video is a collaboration between Hoogendoorn Growth Management, Wageningen UR, Koppert Biological Systems and Rijk Zwaan.
lumileDs releases luXeon sunPlus series A global leader in light engine technology, Lumileds has introduced the LUXEON SunPlus Series, the company’s first line of purpose-built LEDs that provide the exact wavelengths of light required for horticulture applications. Based on the rapidly expanding world population and the increasing population in city centres, the horticulture industry is responding by growing more food indoors using LEDs, allowing a greater amount of food to be grown in smaller spaces, using up to 90% less water than growing outdoors. LUXEON SunPlus Series LEDs are purpose-built for horticulture— binned in photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) to ensure ease of system design for grow lights—and enable specific wavelength tuning for greenhouses, vertical farms and
other horticulture applications. The LUXEON SunPlus 20 Line addresses the needs of greenhouses farmers who want to add supplemental high bay lighting to enable 24-hour or year-round growth. Growers can develop single channel solutions using key wavelengths for photosynthesis, blue (420-480nm) and red (620670nm). Or they can develop multi-channel solutions with select LEDs to optimise light output for different stages of the plant’s life cycle, including seedlings, germination, vegetative growth, flowering, etc. The LUXEON SunPlus 20 Line is comprised of 2.0 x 2.0 mm high power LEDs in Royal Blue (440460 nm), Deep Red (655-675 nm), Far Red (720-750 nm), Lime (broad spectra) and Cool White. “Only Lumileds bins its horticultural LEDs by PPF [photosynthetic photon flux in µmol/s] and wavelength, so lighting designers know exactly what they are getting and can design their fixtures for optimal plant productivity,” said Luis Aceña, Lumileds Senior Manager of Business Development. “The SunPlus 20 Line features a high PPF per LED, which leads to more compact solutions. In addition, because all the LEDs have the same focal length, it is very effective." Vertical farming, using multiple stacks of growth trays, requires lighting from short distances with high uniformity. The LUXEON SunPlus 35 Line addresses these needs with Blue (440-460 nm), Lime, White and three shades of Purple mid power LEDs in a 3.5 x 3.5 mm format. “Our Purple LED offerings are distinct in that they are long-lasting, high efficiency blue LEDs under red phosphor, offering the highest
12 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
uniformity for consistent growth. Other companies are combining blue and red LEDs to get purple hues, but this is problematic because red LEDs age faster than blue ones, so the red / blue ratio keeps changing over time, obtaining unreliable growth results,” Mr Aceña said. The Purple LEDs are offered with different blue PPF relative to PPF total across the photoactive region (400-700 nm). The Purple (2.5% Blue) LED encourages stem growth and flowering, the Purple (12.5% Blue) LED encourages general purpose growth, and the Purple (25% Blue) LED encourages vegetative growth for larger leaves. More information on LUXEON SunPlus Series at: www.lumileds.com/horticulture
Reader Inquiries 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. Address your inquiry to: PH&G PO Box 225, Narrabeen, NSW 2101 AUSTRALIA Int: +612 9905 9030 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
question can ‘bloom’ fertilisers force plants to flower? I am a hobby grower new to hydroponics. I notice that some hydroponic fertilisers are labelled as ‘bloom”. I am getting conflicting comments as to whether these can force plants to flower. Is this possible?
answer ‘bloom’ type fertilisers are useful, but do not force the flowering of plants. Plants, which flower start in the vegetative state (that is, growing roots, stems, and leaves). Individual species will have a specific nutrient demand for this stage, which is usually relatively high in nitrogen (N) and low in potassium (K). When the plant develops and grows into the flowering, and especially fruiting, stage the makeup of its nutrient demand will change. In particular, the relative demand for nitrogen drops and for potassium rises.
‘grow’ and ‘bloom’ fertilisers Liquid fertilisers intended for the plant’s vegetative stage are often called ‘Grow’ or ‘Veg’ fertilisers. Those trying to match the nutrient demand of the flowering and fruiting stage are usually called ‘Bloom’ fertilisers. It is important to realise that ‘Bloom’ fertilisers do not initiate flowering. Their aim is to match the nutrient balance uptake by the plant in its flowering/fruiting stage. 14 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
Note that, because liquid fertilisers are in a concentrated form, ‘Grow’ and ‘Bloom’ fertilisers will always be supplied in two parts, usually called ‘A’ and ‘B’. The reason for this is that in concentrated solutions the mixture of calcium (Ca) and iron (Fe) ions with phosphate (H2PO4) and sulphate (SO4) ions will be insoluble, so these ions have to be separated. When diluted to the working strength given to the plants all these ions are fully soluble. A rough analogy is that you can dissolve one teaspoonful of sugar in a cup of tea, but not a hundred teaspoonsful in the same cup. Consequently, ‘Part A’ contains all the calcium nitrate and iron chelate fertilisers and ‘Part B’ contains all the other fertilisers. To even up the concentration of the fertilisers in A and B up to half of the potassium nitrate (which has no solubility problems) is often moved from the B into the A mix.
Flower initiation There is no standard mechanism for the initiation of flowering. There are numerous different mechanisms, many of which are still uncertain and even unknown, which apply to different species. Sometimes there are even significant differences between varieties within the same species. Typical influences involved are light level, day length, air and plant temperature, the presence of hormones and other plant chemicals. There can even be an influence from the circadian rhythm within the plant – its ‘biological clock’ if you wish. There are no general rules as to which of these
“ We deliver exactly what our customers expect.” Dorus Verhoeven, Legro sales
Our substrate performs precisely how our customers expect it to. That’s because they are an integral part of fine-tuning the mixture. Another reason we’re successful is that we thoroughly wash and buffer the coco which is part of many mixtures. Moreover, we produce to order and our own laboratory analyses the quality of the raw materials and the finished product. Call my colleague Phil Badgery and tell him what you expect from your ideal substrate.
+61 (0)3 9555 5267 | email@example.com
Because there is already enough uncertainty.
apply to individual species, or even varieties, nor to the degree of influence.
Day length One of the best-known influences upon flower initiation is day length. Some plants will initiate flowering when the day length gets below a critical number of hours. These are known as ‘Short day’ plants. In fact this terminology is incorrect. They would be more accurately described as ‘Long night’ plants, as this is what initiates flowering. Some plants require only one long night to initiate, whereas others require several weeks. Other plants are ‘Long day’ plants, initiating flowers when day length exceeds a critical value. Again, the more accurate description would be ‘Short night’ plants. It is possible to shorten the night to control flowering by splitting the night with a period of artificial lighting. Plants, which don’t respond to day length, are known as ‘Day neutral’. Whether a particular plant is long day, short day or day neutral is unpredictable and can only be determined in practice.
other influences Plants flower in order to reproduce. To do this effectively the plant must be strong enough, that is, it must be mature. Juvenile plants are unable to flower. It is the leaves, which detect day length for the plant. For flower initiation there must be some form of communication of this to the flower site. For a long time scientists thought that there must be a ‘flowering hormone’ and even gave it
16 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
the name ‘florigen’. Florigen is now known not to exist, however, other hormones have an involvement. Probably hormone groups such as gibberellins and cytokinins, plus ethylene, sugars, and polyamides interact to cause the induction of flowering. Genes are also involved. There are no general rules and each plant has different interactions. For example, some hormones have been found to aid flowering in some plants and inhibit it in others. Especially relevant to this question – nutrient manipulation cannot initiate flowering.
strawberries Strawberries are interesting because there are some varieties, which are long day, others, which are short day and even others, which are day neutral. Something else about strawberries is that before day length can initiate flowering, the plant must have initiated budding. This requires that the plant has been exposed to a period of low temperature. This process is known as ‘vernalisation’.
chrysanthemums Chrysanthemums are probably the bestknown plant where day length initiation is used so an entire crop can be aimed to harvest for a special occasion such as Mothers’ Day. Chrysanthemum is a short day (long night) plant, so to keep the plant vegetative the nights are kept short by giving low power lighting for four hours in the middle of the night. Flowering is then initiated for the required date by lengthening the night using blackout screens over the crop. b
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 17
SCALING NEW HEIGHTS
Artist’s impression of AeroFarms Corporate headquarters in Newark, New Jersey.
18 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
in our last issue we lookeD at tHe rise oF city Farming anD How it is becoming increasingly embraceD as an alternatiVe, cost-eFFectiVe way oF growing in cities across tHe globe. Part 2 continues tHe story witH a Focus on aeroFarms – a new yorkbaseD agro business, wHicH is taking inDoor Vertical Farming to an inDustrial leVel. by cHristine brown-Paul
small community gardens, urban farms that span several city blocks, and intensive indoor hydroponic or aquaculture facilities are all examples of urban agriculture. this fast-growing phenomenon has the potential to nourish the health and social fabric of communities and create economic opportunities for farmers and neighbourhoods. However, it also comes with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. “The face of agriculture is changing, and urban agriculture is one of the latest movements to challenge the traditional view of farming,” said a spokesperson from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). “From rooftop gardens to aquaponics centres in old warehouses to growing crops on abandoned properties, urban agriculture provides many benefits to a community, including closer neighbourhood ties, reduced crime, education and job training opportunities,
and healthy food access for low-income residents.” In recognition of the growing popularity of urban farming across the USA, the USDA – in conjunction with urban farmers, city government agencies, and local organisations across the US – has developed a variety of tools to help address those challenges and assist the growth of agriculture in cities. The USDA’s toolkit makes these resources available to anyone interested in participating in urban farming, laying out the common operational elements that most urban farmers must consider as they start up or grow their operations. It also contains a special section on resources for developing indoor growing operations, such as aquaponic facilities. For each element, the toolkit identifies technical and financial resources that have been developed by federal, state, and local partners. While some of the elements require local-level
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 19
solutions (e.g. zoning), federal programs and services can support a variety of activities related to urban farming. USDA is also helping producers find an entry into farming through urban agriculture opportunities and the increasing consumer demand for locally produced items. Under this Administration, USDA has invested more than $1 billion in over 40,000 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects. USDA is committed to helping farmers, ranchers, and businesses access the growing market for local and regional foods, which was valued at $12 billion in 2014, according to industry estimates.
new york, new york New York City (NYC) can lay claim to being the epicentre of urban farming within the US. The United States Department of Agriculture and Farm Services Agency (FSA) have recently announced a new pilot program in
20 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
NYC for an Urban Ag Specialist role to help further bolster additional urban farming efforts. NYC was chosen as the location to start this program, as it is considered the nexus of urban farming. The New Jersey Economic Development Artistâ€™s impression of Authority has provided AeroFarms interior nearly $9m in incentives, growing room. spanning over 10 years, which includes a $2.2m grant under the Economic Redevelopment and Growth program and $6.5m in tax credits. In the Guide to Urban Farming in New York State, author Hannah Koski from the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University has collected resources available to urban farmers in New York State, and covers a variety of topics. â€œNot since the Victory Gardens of the First and Second World Wars has the United States seen such a resurgence of urban agriculture. Farms and gardens are popping up everywhere â€“ on windowsills and balconies, on rooftops and in vacant lots, in schoolyards and in
public parks, and the list goes on,” Ms Koski said. “As city dwellers become increasingly concerned with the origins and safety of their food, of the equality of their food systems, and of the strength and self-sufficiency of their communities, urban agriculture is bound to grow and to catch the public and political eye, as rural farming has done for decades. This guide has been created in response to this new agricultural space, and to the new faces of city farmers whose needs may not in all cases parallel those of rural farmers. “The guide is intended to promote the start-up and prosperity of urban farming businesses, and to make easier and more economically feasible the production of food and farm products in urban environments,” Ms Koski said.
worlD’s largest inDoor Vertical Farm Newark-based AeroFarms is a mission-driven company setting new standards in controlled urban farming. The company is in the process of building what an industry group says is the world’s largest commercial vertical farm at the site of an old steel mill in New Jersey’s largest city. “AeroFarms is the world leader and pioneer for indoor vertical farming since 2004,” said Marc Oshima, co-
founder and chief marketing officer of the company. “Partnering with Goldman Sachs and Prudential, we are building in Newark, New Jersey our new global headquarters and world’s largest indoor vertical farm for baby leaf greens and herbs.” Currently, AeroFarms employs over 100 people, and is promising more jobs in the months to come as the company grows. Like other companies in this space, it is relying on productivity gains to offset the high cost of expensive technology and emerge as a very eco-friendly and successful business. At the repurposed site, AeroFarms is pushing the limits of what David Rosenberg, the company’s CEO, calls ‘precision agriculture’. The site will contain 12 layers of growth on 3.5 acres, producing nearly one million kilograms of food per year. “Our team has tremendous capabilities and we have experts in horticulture, engineering, food safety, and registered dietitians to set a new bar of controlled growing from seed to package,” Mr Rosenberg said. The farm, built in the economically depressed New Jersey city, promises millions of dollars in public-private investment, and an array of locally grown leafy greens for sale. The company has spent some $30m to bring to
AeroFarms team. Currently, AeroFarms employs over 100 people, and is promising more jobs in the months to come as the company grows. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 21
Growing units at AeroFarm, the world’s largest indoor vertical farm for baby leaf greens and herbs.
which anchors the roots that are misted with a blend of reality a new breed of ‘green agriculture’ that seeks to nutrients and water,” Mr Oshima said. produce more crops in less space while minimising “For more effective photosynthesis we use LED lights environmental damage, even if it means dissociating food designed to deliver the exact wavelength of spectrum of production from the natural ecosystem. lights that plants need to thrive in the most energyAeroFarms’ state-of-the-art aeroponic growing efficient way possible. system uses a patented technology that facilitates the “We help plants reach their peak nutritional and growth of food without sun or soil, using 95% less water flavour potential by continuously monitoring with sensors than in the field. and optimising their environment,” he said. Mr Oshima distinguishes aeroponics from hydroponics, AeroFarms is one of several companies creating new emphasising the former system’s superior technology. ways to grow indoors year-round to solve problems like “The key to the technology is providing a targeted the drought out West, frost in the South or other nutrient mist and oxygen to the roots for greater biomass unfavourable conditions affecting farmers. in a shorter period of time,” he said. “We want to help alleviate food deserts, which is a real Similar techniques are used in extreme environments problem in the United States and around the world,” said where growing food the traditional way is not possible, Mr Rosenberg. including the United States South Pole Station where “So here, there are researchers live in areas of Newark that isolated hostile are underprivileged, conditions for there is not enough months at a stretch, economic and in orbit on the development, aren’t International Space enough supermarkets. Station, which has its We put this farm in one own space garden of those areas.” deploying a mature The farm has its own growing system farm stand for called Veggie. community members “However, our who want to buy the plants grow on a AeroFarms’s aeroponics and LED technology that uses produce. It also is patented 100 per mist rather than water to grow plants. selling the food at local cent recyclable cloth, 22 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
LED lights deliver the exact wavelength of spectrum of lights that plants need to thrive in the most energy-efficient way possible.
turns a year. grocery stores, restaurants, corporate dining accounts, AeroFarms has and schools. 75 times greater Some critics of the system ask why if there is an productivity per abundance of sunshine and soil available, is it necessary square foot than to grow indoors? traditional farming. “We are at a major crisis here for our global food “This transformative system,” said Marc Oshima. project will not only “We have an increasing population – by the year 2050, redefine New Jersey as we will need to feed nine billion people. We have the Garden State, but also increasing urbanisation. commercial agriculture as “With the AeroFarm system, we can grow a plant in a whole.” b about 12-16 days, which would otherwise take 30-45 days in the field,” he said. Marc Oshima says that AeroFarms has a number of advantages over conventional farming: Healthy food options can be created within the city, not shipped into it. While growing outside provides two to three growing seasons, From plant to plate. The AeroFarm system can AeroFarms is able to grow a plant in about 12-16 days, which would achieve for up to 30 crop otherwise take 30-45 days in the field.
The guide to urban Farming in new york state aims to promote the start-up and prosperity of urban farming businesses.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 23
24 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
wHat are Functional FooDs anD How can tHey best be useD to ProViDe HealtH beneFits anD reDuce tHe risks oF Disease? wHat are tHe imPlications For HyDroPonic growers? by cHristine brown-Paul
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 25
worlDwiDe consumer interest in FooD, Diet, anD HealtH continues to Fuel FooD anD Drink inDustry strategies baseD arounD nutrition. tHe Past two DecaDes HaVe seen tHe worlD’s ProcesseD FooDs inDustry embrace a nutrition concePt known as ‘Functional FooDs & nutraceuticals’.
useful components such as genes to vaccinate consumers against important diseases.
In a recent research paper – Functional foods, herbs and nutraceuticals: towards biochemical mechanisms of healthy aging – the author states that functional foods can help prevent and manage a number of conditions associated The simple idea behind the functional foods concept is with ageing. that foods and beverages can be developed with health“Ageing is associated with mitochondrial dysfunctions, enhancing food ingredients and/or properties that go which trigger membrane leakage, release of reactive beyond basic nutrition and deliver a scientifically species from oxygen and nitrogen and subsequent supported health benefit, usually in relation to a specific induction of peroxidative reactions that result in disease condition such as heart health. biomolecules’ damaging and releasing of metals with ‘Functional foods’ can be amplification of free further defined as foods radicals discharge,” that improve people’s the author writes. health by preventing or “Free radicals induce reducing chronic and neuronal cell death inflammatory disorders, increasing tissue loss, such as obesity. which could be Functional foods include associated with memory a wide variety of foods and detriment. These food components believed pathological events are to improve overall health involved in and wellbeing, reduce the cardiovascular, risk of specific diseases, or In the 21st century, biotechnology will play an neurodegenerative and minimise the effects of increasing role to produce what is known as carcinogenic processes. other health concerns. functional foods. “Dietary bioactive These foods include, for compounds from example, the naturally healthful components in fruits different functional foods, herbs and nutraceuticals and vegetables, whole grains and fibre in certain breads [ginseng, ginkgo, nuts, grains, tomato, soy and cereals, calcium in milk, and fortified foods and phytoestrogens, curcumin, melatonin, polyphenols, beverages such as vitamin D fortified milk. antioxidant vitamins, carnitine, carnosine, ubiquinone, The term ‘functional foods’, in its broadest definition, can etc.] can ameliorate or even prevent diseases,” also include dietary supplements. he writes. As well as many traditional foods having been found to “Protection from chronic diseases of ageing involves contain components with potential health benefits, new antioxidant activities, mitochondrial stabilising functions, foods are being developed to enhance or incorporate metal chelating activities, inhibition of apoptosis of vital these beneficial components for their health benefits and cells, and induction of cancer cell apoptosis. desirable physiological effects. “Functional foods and nutraceuticals constitute a great Specific minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, dietary fibre or promise to improve health and prevent ageing-related biologically active substances are found in these foods. chronic diseases.” The incentive for researchers is to study many food types Maintaining health and reducing risk of disease is at closely and and identify those functional foods that the forefront of many consumers’ minds as they age. potentially improve health and wellbeing and prevent, Recent research from the International Food Information reduce or delay the risk of major diseases like Council United States shows that Americans cite cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis. cardiovascular disease (46 per cent), weight (32 per cent) In the 21st century, biotechnology will play an and cancer (22 per cent) as their top health concerns. increasing role to produce what is known as functional Along with these issues that can affect us as we age, foods. Genetically modified foods may also carry other 26 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
Professor Lindsay Brown from the Functional Foods Research Group is researching how functional foods improve health and wellbeing.
almost one in five Americans (19 per cent) cite healthy ageing as a top health concern. The 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Survey, also shows that people often look to food for its health benefits. Ninety per cent of Americans can name at least one food and its associated benefit and 76 per cent say that functional foods, or foods that can promote health, can have a meaningful impact on their health when they consume them. The foods and food components Americans look to the most to help improve or maintain their health are: Fruits and vegetables • Fish/fish oil • Dairy •Whole grains • Herbs and spices. “Americans have made it clear that they want to take advantage of the health benefits of food,” according to Elizabeth Rahavi, RD, Associate Director of Health and Wellness at the International Food Information Council. “But it’s not just fruits and vegetables that can have a positive impact on our health. There are lots of healthful components like antioxidants, fibre, whole grains, and soy found in a variety of foods and beverages that can make a difference in our health as we age. “Consuming foods for health benefits doesn’t have to be expensive,” Ms Rahavi said,
“Just taking simple steps such as choosing a whole grain cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt for breakfast each day can go a long way to improve health over time.”
australian researcH on Functional FooDs In Australia, the Functional Foods Research Group (FFRG) at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) is researching how functional foods improve health and wellbeing. FFRG focuses on development treatments to reverse chronic inflammatory diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, fatty liver, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and kidney damage. The research team is led by Professor Lindsay Brown, Dr Sunil Panchal and Dr Stephen Wanyonyi. The group investigates treatments for these chronic inflammatory diseases to provide an evidence basis for dietary options to improve the health of people in the community. Most of the research by FFRG has been on foods and food components, but some exciting new compounds with highly selective novel inflammatory mechanisms have also been tested. Published studies include interventions with Queen Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 27
The Queen Garnet plum has high levels of anthocyanins, believed to provide a range of health benefits, including fighting obesity. Photo courtesy ABC. Garnet plums, purple carrots, chia seeds, ellagitannins, cardamom and seaweeds. Translation of these results is an important aspect thus, FFRG is now moving towards the beginning of human intervention trial with functional foods. Dr Panchal has been awarded an Advance Queensland Research Fellowship (May 2016 - April 2019) to develop functional food combinations for testing in the elderly group.
Inflammatory cells cause long-term damage to any tissue they are in. We are seeing this incredibly effective anti-inflammatory action. “What it could mean is that we have a very simple way of intervening in the diet, of adding something to the diet that is incredibly palatable, that would, over the long term, decrease all the problems with obesity,” Professor Brown said. Queensland company Nutrafruit has the exclusive licence to market and produce the Queen Garnet plum, which was bred by the Queensland Department of Primary Industry. “Interest in the high antioxidant plum is coming from every major stone fruit growing country in the world,” Nutrafruit’s Hugh Macintosh said. “We’ve had calls from Romania, Spain, South America, South Africa, the UK, the USA, across Europe and China, everywhere. “People wanted to know how they could get trees and where they could buy the fruit and the juice,” Mr Macintosh said. Nutrafruit was formed when a consortium of Queensland agribusiness partners bought the rights to the Queen Garnet plum from the Queensland Government in 2010. The company sublicences tree nurseries to produce the trees, and has
queen garnet Plum: Fat or Fiction? Currently, the USQ Functional Foods Research Group is running human trials on the health properties of Queen Garnet plums, with Professor Lindsay Brown saying that early indications were “amazing”. Developed in Queensland, the Queen Garnet plum is receiving worldwide attention. The ‘super plum’ is set to earn the Queensland Government millions of dollars in royalties over the next 20 years. The Queen Garnet plum has high levels of anthocyanins, believed to provide a range of health benefits, including fighting obesity. The plum’s health benefits were earlier tested on rats in a trial run by USQ where researchers were astounded when obese rats fed the dark red plum returned to their normal body weight, despite staying on a high calorie diet. “We actually bring everything back to normal. Blood pressure, heart function, liver structure and function, hormone changes, the obesity, all of these come back to normal, despite this incredible junk food diet,” said Professor Brown. “What we saw in the tissues of these animals was that there were no more inflammatory cells after treatment. 28 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
Queensland company, Nutrafruit has the exclusive licence to market and produce the Queen Garnet plum. Photo courtesy ABC.
Dr Lesley Braun, Director of the Blackmore’s Institute says that beta glucan from oats is a great example of a functional food. selected orchardists in each state to grow them. However, growers have been warned not to illegally sell the protected plum variety. Hugh Macintosh said it was clear that some orchardists were illegally growing and selling the variety. “There’s been whispers around from last season, and in fact there was a little bit of fruit that came onto the market last season we knew was from unauthorised trees,” he said. “We also had some examples of fruit being sold as or marketed as Queen Garnet that wasn’t Queen Garnet.” Mr Macintosh said that while only a small amount of fruit had been found to breach the rules, authorities would act quickly to close down any unauthorised production.
beneFits oF beta glucan Blackmores Institute is the academic and professional arm of Blackmores Limited, Australia’s leading natural health company. The Institute was established to support and drive an evidence-based approach to natural medicine. Dr Lesley Braun is Director of the Blackmores Institute
and Adjunct Senior Research fellow at Monash/Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre and Associate Professor at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine Western Sydney University. “The Institute’s focus is on research and education; our primary purpose is to improve the quality use of natural medicine through the translation of the evidence base into practical healthcare education, resources and advisory services,” said Dr Braun. Dr Braun said that there are health benefits available from a range of functional foods. “Beta glucan from oats is a great example of a functional food. Numerous foods and food ingredients have been identified that modify blood lipids,” she said. “Over 50 years ago, oats were first identified in a study to modify cholesterol. And in 1992, the first metaanalysis on oats and lipids was conducted. Since then, work has been undertaken to identify the specific components in soluble fibre that works best. Beta glucan is now known to be the most important for cholesterol reduction in barley/oats.” The recent Blackmores Institute Symposium reviewed the evidence to support beta glucan’s benefits as functional food. In short, research suggests it has the power to: Regulate blood sugar levels and found to be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes Help to reduce cholesterol levels – best for people with borderline levels as it has a gentle effect Increases satiety so it has potential in weight loss when taken with plenty of water before a meal. “Blackmores Smart Heart is a great example of a functional food. It is a natural oat bran powder rich in oat beta glucan. A daily serve (14 g) delivers 3g beta glucan which, when consumed as part of a healthy diet that is low in saturated fats, helps to reduce cholesterol,” Dr Braun said.
FisH oil suPPlementation Fish oil provides a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, arthritis and asthma, and also help brain development and function. Recently, food technologists at the Riddet Institute in Palmerston North, New Zealand found a unique way of adding fish oil to new functional foods without making them taste or smell fishy. The researchers have developed a way of microencapsulating fish oil so they can add large amounts to food without affecting the taste and smell. Microencapsulated fish oil is a liquid emulsion that is Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 29
added to food during the enhancing’ foods through manufacturing process. The developing their own differentiated emulsion is marketed to food market niches. manufacturers. “It is therefore recommended The Institute’s food technologists that Australia’s rural industries are developing prototype foods to should develop a ‘vision’ and a show the food industry that the nutrition strategy framework and emulsion can be added to different facilitate business development products and have even added it to from within this framework that ice-cream. combines environmental and Professor Peter Howe is Scientific NZ food technologists have found a health goals with consumer-led unique way of adding fish oil to new products, marketing, and Advisor at the Blackmores Institute functional foods without making whose current research involves innovation,” the paper said. them taste or smell fishy. investigating the health benefits of The position paper argues that omega-3 – as contained in fish oil – Australia’s rural industries can for cardiovascular health. play a more proactive and innovative role in delivering “Someone contemplating taking a fish oil supplement ‘health’ benefits, including added value produce. for the first time will be wondering ‘do I really need it?’, A recent RIRDC report Cranberry production the ‘what for?’ or ‘what benefit will I get from it?’ Having potential for using hydroponics – details a short-term addressed this, the next questions are likely to be ‘what project to evaluate the potential for hydroponic cranberry type?’ and ‘how much?’ Professor Howe said. production in Australia. Research has demonstrated that “Answering these is not straightforward, as there are cranberries have the potential to help prevent urinary so many potential indications for fish oil supplementation tract infections (UTIs) while over the past five years, and, in most cases, clinical trial evidence is still limited scientists have also identified an increasing number of and too rudimentary to define the optimal mix of the mechanisms that help explain the anti-cancer properties health-giving long chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and of cranberries. DHA, let alone the optimal intake requirements. The RIRDC project successfully demonstrated that “Recognising the extensive variation in cranberries could be grown hydroponically. individual responsiveness to omega-3 However, a number of potential constraints to supplementation, we cannot justify a ‘one commercialisation were identified. size fits all’ approach. An alternative “An opportunity exists for growers and approach is to tailor both preventive and investors in the horticulture industry to therapeutic recommendations to an develop and market fresh cranberries. individual’s omega-3 status, which can be They would make a welcome addition to reliably determined in a blood test,” Australian fresh berries, and would add he said. to the growing demand for The Rural Industries Research and Development ‘nutraceuticals’ and functional foods,” Functional FooDs: said an RIRDC spokesperson. Corporation has evaluated imPlications For “With increased production, processed the potential for hydroponic HyDroPonic ProDuction and value-added products could be cranberry production According to a paper by the Rural developed and potentially replace in Australia. Industries Research and Development imported processed cranberry products. Corporation (RIRDC), the premise of the “The high capital costs, combined with environmental functional foods/nutrition science revolution of the 1990s concerns and limitations, would preclude traditional is based on observations of the health benefits of cranberry production in Australia, however, cranberries consuming more fruit, vegetables and ‘whole’ foods. are likely to be ideally suited to hydroponics,” he said. Fresh produce and products based on them often miss “With the rise in consumer awareness of the benefits out on this newly created, nutrition science-based, food of including functional foods in the diet to improve and supply opportunity. In other words, there are strong maintain wellness, the medicinal properties of trends for rural industries to tap into and to innovate and cranberries create an opportunity in Australia to produce compete more effectively in the market for ‘health 30 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
and market fresh cranberries in an environmentally sustainable manner to meet the demand for fresh functional foods.”
Herbs as Functional FooDs: interView witH FresHzest For over 25 years, Freshzest has been at the forefront of the Australian fresh culinary herb industry. PH&G caught up with Freshzest founder and director, Robert Hayes. Functional foods have been defined as ‘foods that provide benefit beyond basic nutrition’ - in what ways do herbs fit this description? “Many herbs contain concentrated levels of certain compounds that are very beneficial to the body in helping to maintain optimal heath and reducing the risk of disease. Parsley for example, has been found to contain apigenin, which can inhibit the growth of some cancer cells. Oregano contains generous levels of phytochemicals and antioxidants along with antimicrobial capabilities against pathogens like E.coli. “Rosemary is also very high in antioxidants and has antimicrobial properties linked to its polyphenol composition. Green basil is used widely in a number of countries to reduce plasma cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
Robert Hayes is director of Australia’s leading fresh culinary herb grower, Freshzest.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 31
“Almost all herbs are nutrient dense and high in antioxidants and several have properties that may help fight inflammation (rosemary and oregano), improve cognitive function (sage and rosemary) or assist in regulating blood sugar levels (oregano, chives and sage). These kinds of additional functions take the role of herbs far beyond an average flavour enhancer.”
FresHzest backgrounD “Freshzest began in the late 1970s. From there we began supplying restaurants in Melbourne in the 80s with culinary herbs grown at the Pound Creek operation. We started supplying Woolworths in the early ‘90s and the business has continually expanded since then to accommodate a growing demand, driven by increasing culinary sophistication in Australia’s major cities, along with a string of hugely popular TV cooking shows. “We currently have two growing sites; in Victoria and northern NSW and planting has begun at a third. We also have a large grower network to assist in servicing both our major customer in Woolworths as well as a growing number of retailers stocking our Freshzest 32 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
branded product. Our top selling herbs are coriander, basil, parsley, chives, mint and rosemary.”
wHat are tHeir HealtH beneFits? “Coriander contains high levels of antioxidants and can help prevent urinary tract infections along with having a rich polyphenolic content that has been shown in lab testing to have a cardio-protective effect. “Basil – along with being an antioxidant powerhouse, the essential oils found in basil have been found to have effective antimicrobial properties against bacteria, yeast and mould. “Parsley is extremely nutrient dense. It is an excellent source of vitamins C and K as well as beta-carotene, which can protect the body from free-radical damage. “Chives – the organosulfur compounds found in chives, a member of the Allium family, have been studied extensively in relation to cancer, particularly stomach and colorectal cancers. They are nutrientdense food, high in vitamins A and C, amongst others. “Mint is well known for its ability to relieve stomach
home and have herbs at the ready. There is a growing trend toward Australian native herbs and we can expect to see growth in this area in the coming years.
Many herbs contain concentrated levels of certain compounds that are very beneficial to the body in helping to maintain optimal heath and reducing the risk of disease. complaints including cramps, bloating and other symptoms associated with IBS. The active ingredient, menthol, helps relax muscles. “Rosemary has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, as well as containing high levels of vitamin E, which can help balance oestrogen levels. Preliminary research has indicated that rosemary may be effective in fighting a number of cancers.”
any current trenDs in Herbs? “Microherbs are becoming more and more common in restaurants and we recently began supplying Woolworths with a full micro herb range. Herbs in pots are also popular as people look to reduce waste in the
Herbal supplements - The term ‘functional foods’ can also include dietary supplements such as herbal remedies. Future goals? “We plan to continue our expansion with the addition of our new Victorian growing site, along with Stage 2 of our Caniaba glasshouse. We will continue to educate consumers and retailers on the use of herbs, through participation in TV shows such as Good Chef Bad Chef as well as our quarterly (seasonal) e-cookbooks. “Additionally, we are exploring ways to bring more flavour to Australian plates through products other than fresh culinary herbs. We are also developing export opportunities for both our standard herbs and micro herb ranges.”
HigHer intake oF berries associateD witH DecreaseD risk oF tyPe 2 Diabetes
Freshzest’s top selling herbs are coriander, basil, parsley, chives, mint and rosemary.
Eating berries may be the key to reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus in the first-of-its kind research published in the European Clinical Journal of Nutrition recently. Researchers at the Zhejiang University in China conducted a systematic review of study data in over 400,000 subjects across eight prospective cohort studies to assess dose-response relationships for dietary Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 33
Freshzest also grows micro herbs, which are becoming more and more common in restaurants. anthocyanins and berry intake for overall risk of type 2 diabetes. Anthocyanins are phytochemicals found in fruits, vegetables, flowers and grains – with berries providing a major source of dietary anthocyanins. Evidence on the effect of anthocyanins on progression of cancers, cardiovascular disease and prevention of obesity continues to grow, however, in recent studies findings have been inconsistent on the relationship between anthocyanins and type 2 diabetes.
Higher intake of berries is associated with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
34 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
Mint is well known for its ability to relieve stomach complaints, cramps, bloating and other symptoms associated with IBS. Although the number of randomised controlled trials reviewed was limited, authors claim the large sample size provided strong statistical power to quantitatively evaluate the associations. The authors concluded that the findings from this meta-analysis provide sufficient evidence that dietary intakes of anthocyanins and berries are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. b Source: Eur J of Clin Nutrition (1-8) 2016. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2016.142. Published online 17 August 2010.
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master HyDroPonic garDener, cliFF gougH 88, is liVing ProoF tHat you’re neVer too olD to keeP growing.
by cHristine brown-Paul
BACK IN MY OWN BACKYARD 02
36 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
Affectionately known to locals and tourists alike as ‘Deni’, Deniliquin is a town in the Riverina region of country New South Wales close to the border with Victoria. The town is divided in two parts by the Edward River, an anabranch of the Murray River, with the main business district located on the south bank. Deniliquin services a productive agricultural district with prominent rice, wool and timber industries. At the 2011 census, the town boasted a population of 7,494. More than anything else, Deniliquin has been put on the map by the Deni Ute Muster, which sees an annual influx of around 25,000 visitors who flock to the town to celebrate all things Australian and to see the lineup of the iconic ‘utes’. Deniliquin resident and hydroponic gardener, Cliff Gough, 88 might be forgiven for not wanting to be in the centre of the action when the Deni Ute Muster gets into full swing, however, as his attention is usually engaged in a more peaceful pastime. Cliff lives by the adage “always have something to look forward to.” And judging by his bountiful hydroponic garden, there is no fear of this not being the case with an abundance of beautiful plants and plenty of gardening tasks awaiting him as he gets up each morning and goes to work. A retired dairy farmer, Cliff has seen the ups and downs of life in no small measure. “About four years ago I had a quadruple heart bypass and I thought that might be the end of me, but the reverse has been true. Nowadays, I feel better than ever,” Cliff said. Around 12 years ago, Cliff lost his wife of 58 years. “It was a big shock to the system,” Cliff said. “I felt like giving it all up and just letting things go, and I did exactly that for quite some time.” But letting things go was the last thing that his new partner, Thelma Thompson would allow Cliff to do. “After I met Thelma, I became interested in things again and decided to get back into gardening. Thelma
is a great gardener herself so I guess you could say she spurred me on,” Cliff said.
on tHe VeranDaH Cliff first became interested in hydroponics 30 years ago when his wife bought him an American-style hydroponic set-up. “It had a covered wire frame in the bottom and pots with wicks in them,” Cliff said. Cliff uses his verandah and other areas in his garden to grow his crops. Drawing on his many years of experience and know-how, he has created a hydroponic garden that is flourishing with many plants, including tomatoes, spring onions, celery, silverbeet and beetroot. “These do well in the pipe system and Thelma generally looks after these. We use 90mm drainage pipes and I just cut into them using a hole saw on the end of a drill,” Cliff said. “You just put 70mm pots inside and they sit in the water.” “We also have strawberries, broccoli and chillies,” he said. “We use timers to water during the day – three to four times for two-minute runs, and more frequently in summer to keep the roots moist and cool.”
cliFF grows siX Varieties oF lettuce “These days everyone seems to want loose leaf lettuce for their salad but I also like the good old iceberg variety,” he said. Cliff also uses nine-litre buckets and polystyrene boxes to grow his hydroponics produce. “The plants in the boxes sit in sawdust but you could use any other type of medium for example, perlite or scoria,” Cliff said. “I grow potatoes in the boxes and roses in the pots, as well as mandarins and avocadoes, also using sawdust. “My son is an outdoor furniture maker so there’s always a good supply of sawdust, Of course, it’s good quality and is usually from radiata pine,” he said. Any produce that is left over is given to those less fortunate. “We usually give away loads to those in need, many of whom don’t have enough money to pay for fresh vegetables, which are so important in maintaining good health. It’s good to be able to give back in some way to the community,” Cliff said. Thelma says that although many people think that hydroponic gardening is labour intensive, the opposite is true. “We only work for a couple of hours each day,”
always have something to look forward to... 06
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 37
she said.“ “The beauty of it is that it helps keep you young because you’re interested in something. We look forward to getting out of bed each day.” Cliff agrees, saying that he has found a new lease on life with hydroponic gardening. “My doctor tells me that my heart is in better condition now than it ever was, so something must be working,” he said. “I really do have a new outlook on life.” b
Photo 01: cliff and thelma in the garden. Photo 02: lettuce in deep water system.
Cliff says hydroponics has given him a brand new outlook on life!
Photo 03: the garden. Photo 04: cliff in the garden Photo 05: capsicums grown in sawdust with drip system in buckets. Photo 06: thelma with corn in pipe system. Photo 07: beans in deep water medium. Photo 08: cucumbers. Photo 09: cliff's garden is flourishing with many plants. Photo 10: upright pipe system. water pumps into top and then filters down to the tank. Photo 11: cliff with Pipe system.
Photo 12: cauliflowers at seven weeks. Photo 13: cliff uses his verandah and other areas in his garden to grow his crops. Photo 14: cliff with some of his tomatoes.
Photo 15: some of their produce. Photo 16: centre of Deniliquin, in the riverina region of country new south wales close to the border with Victoria.
38 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 39
PURE CLEAN WATER IS THE WORLDâ€™S FIRST AND FOREMOST MEDICINE!
Stunted grape shoot due to zinc deficiency. (Image Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food & Rural Affairs)
ZINC: DEFICIENCY & TOXICITY DeFiciencies or eXcesses oF mineral elements sHow in a number oF ways: in colour, Density, size anD sHaPe oF leaVes; in tHe tHickness anD colour oF stems anD tHe lengtH oF internoDes; in tHe colour, Fibrousness anD tHickness oF roots; in tHe abunDance anD timing oF Flowers; anD in tHe size, colour, HarDness anD FlaVour oF Fruit. recognising tHose Particular eFFects is tHe key to Diagnosing nutritional DisorDers. by steVen carrutHers 42 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
zinc (cHemical symbol zn) is an essential micronutrient, wHicH means it is Vital For Plant growtH anD DeVeloPment, but is requireD in Very small quantities. DiscoVereD in 1746 by german cHemist anDreas marggraF, zinc Has tHe atomic number 30 witH an atomic weigHt oF 65.38 u ± 0.002 u. Zinc is one of the most widespread micronutrient deficiencies in crops and pastures worldwide and causes large losses in crop production and crop quality. Almost half of the world’s cereal crops are grown on zincdeficient soils; as a result, zinc deficiency in humans is a widespread problem. From a human nutrition perspective, zinc is the second most abundant trace element found in our body (after iron) and should be supplemented on a daily basis. The application of zinc, when it is needed, gives a more obvious response than any other micronutrient, and a lack of zinc also produces more dramatic symptoms than other trace element deficits. Zinc governs production of the natural growth hormone auxin. When the production of this hormone is compromised, plants become obviously stunted and distorted.
Functions oF zinc Zinc occurs in plants as a free ion, as a complex with a variety of low molecular weight compounds, or as a component of proteins and other macromolecules. It is an essential component in many enzymes where it acts as a functional, structural, or regulatory cofactor; a large number of zinc deficiency disorders are associated with the disruption of normal enzyme activity (including that of key photosynthetic enzymes). Zinc deficiency increases membrane leakiness as zinc-containing enzymes are involved in the detoxification of membrane damaging oxygen radicals. Zinc may be involved in the control of gene expression; it appears important in stabilising RNA and DNA structure, in maintaining the activity of DNAsynthesising enzymes and in controlling the activity of RNA-degrading enzymes. Zinc is linked to the growth hormone auxin – low auxin levels cause stunting of leaves and shoots. It plays an important role in the formation and activity of chlorophyll, and it is involved in protein synthesis. Zinc is also important for carbohydrate metabolism, and plays a major role in the absorption of moisture (plants with adequate zinc nutrition have enhanced drought-handling capacity).
zinc DeFiciency Visible deficiency symptoms include: Chlorosis – yellowing of leaves; often interveinal; in some species, young leaves are the most affected, but in others both old and new leaves are chlorotic. Necrotic spots – death of leaf tissue on areas of chlorosis. Bronzing of leaves - chlorotic areas may turn bronze coloured. Rosetting of leaves – zinc-deficient dicotyledons often have shortened internodes, so leaves are clustered on the stem. Stunting of plants –small plants may occur as a result of reduced growth or because of reduced internode elongation. Dwarf leaves (‘little leaf’) – small leaves that often show chlorosis, necrotic spots or bronzing. Malformed leaves – leaves are often narrower or have wavy margins. In small crops, shortened shoots produce a cluster of small, distorted leaves near the growing tip. Interveinal yellowing is often combined with overall paleness. Flowers and pods drop off and yields are dramatically reduced. In tomatoes, a zinc deficiency shows an advanced case of interveinal necrosis. In the early stages the younger leaves become yellow and pitting develops in the interveinal upper surfaces of the mature leaves. As the deficiency progresses these symptoms develop into an intense interveinal necrosis but the main veins remain green, as in the symptoms of recovering iron deficiency. In strawberries, younger leaves initially develop a yellow interveinal chlorosis in the interior of the leaf, while the outside margin remains green. This produces a halo effect. Leaf blades are typically narrower and elongated. With severe deficiencies the interveinal areas can develop necrosis. In berries, small pale yellow berries are mixed with large ones in the same bunches, resulting in abnormally loose clusters. Weak rachises may develop stem necrosis. In fruit crops, interveinal chlorosis is present in small, narrow, often distorted leaves arranged at the ends of seriously shortened shoots. The degree of chlorosis varies with the crop, i.e. there are very few visual symptoms with apples, but severe symptoms with citrus, stonefruit and grapes. Blossoming and fruiting declines rapidly as a zinc deficiency develops. In cereal crops, symptoms appear within two weeks of Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 43
emergence and feature a broad stripe of chlorosis, more pronounced towards the base of the leaf. Young leaves are most severely affected. Delayed maturity and reduced yields are the likely outcome.
zinc DeFiciency is oFten conFuseD witH: Manganese deficiency – yellowing pattern between the veins occurs as ‘islands’ of yellow areas rather than a continuous discolouration of the leaf. Boron deficiency – small cupped leaves, poor fruit set and bulges in internodes. Magnesium deficiency – yellowing pattern starts at leaf margin; occurs first on basal leaves. Iron deficiency – yellowing between the small leaf veins, eventually turning almost white.
Herbicide injury – severe margin teeth elongation and distortion of leaf shape.
zinc toXicity Zinc toxicity causes a pale green chlorosis of newer leaves. If toxicity is severe, pinhead-sized light-brown spots may appear between the veins. Older leaves may wilt and appear dull. All leaves are a lighter green than is normal. Zinc toxicity in hydroponic systems can be caused by contamination of the water. Contact of nutrient solutions with galvanised pipes and fittings has been known to lead to zinc toxicity in sensitive seedlings. Galvanised polyhouse frames and wires are other possible sources of excess zinc. b
Zinc deficiency in grape. (Image Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food & Rural Affairs)
Zinc deficiency in tomato. (Image Yara)
Where there is excess zinc in cucumber, the older leaf (on the left) appears dull. The younger leaf is pale green with pinholesized light brown spots between the veins. (Image NSW DPI) 44 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
Initial zinc deficiency in strawberry with green border and pale interior. (Image Brian E. Whipker)
management notes High phosphorus levels or high applications of phosphorus fertilisers may combine with zinc and make zinc unavailable to the roots. Anaerobic conditions can also induce deficiencies. Foliar sprays may be used but deficiency should be confirmed with tissue analysis before use. A lack of zinc occurs only rarely in greenhouse crops. References: Alloway, B.J. (2008). Zinc in soils and crop nutrition (PDF). Brussels: International Zinc Association and International Fertilizer Industry Association. ISBN 9789081333108. Retrieved 14 April 2015. Nutri-Tech Solutions (NTS); http://www.nutri-tech.com.au. Retrieved 18 Sept 2016. Haifa-Group (http://www.haifa-group.com/ ). Retrieved 18 Sept 2016. J. Badgery-Parker, et al. Commercial Greenhouse Cucumber Production (2010), NSW Industry & Development. ISBN 9789734719997
Zinc deficiency (left), manganese deficiency (right). (Image Image Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food & Rural Affairs) Melbourne: Inkata Press. ISBN 0909605904. Weir, R.G.; Cresswell, G.C. (1993). Plant nutrition disorders: 3. Vegetable crops. Melbourne: Inkata Press. ISBN 0909605912.
Brown, P.H., I. Cakmak and Q. Zhang (1993) Form and function of zinc in plants. Chap 7 in Robson, A.D. (ed.) Zinc in Soils and Plants, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht. pp 90-106.
Yara (http://www.yara.us). Retrieved 18 Sept 2016.
Weir, R.G,; Cresswell, G.C.; Loebel, M.R. (1995). Plant nutrient disorders 2: Tropical fruit and nut crops.
North Carolina State University (https://content.ces.ncsu.edu). Retrieved 18 Sept 2016.
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food & Rural Affairs (http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/). Retrieved 18 Sept 2016.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 45
Growing figs in hydroponics
Figs â€“ the oldest known cultivated plant
46 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
an eXciting aPProacH to Perennial Fruit cultiVation in HyDroPonics.
time immemorial and were an important source of food, eaten both fresh and dry.
by ben saFronoVitz
Figs are tHe olDest known cultiVateD Plant, witH a History going back 11,200 years
Perennial fruit trees are cultivated traditionally in open field (orchards) to increase production numbers, control etc, which is a standard agriculture practice when commercial fruit production is planned, as is the case, for example, for apples, avocadoes, kiwi fruit etc. Recently, a new approach to fruit production under a controlled environment has emerged, which uses hydroponics principles to improve yield, quality and time frame of fruit production. In Canada, a novel approach to solve the problems of cold winters and short growing seasons is to move the production of wine grapes indoors. Initiatives like these might constitute the way forward in terms of pioneering commercial ventures that have the potential to change traditional approaches to greenhouse and hydroponic production of fruits. Over the last 25 years, the consumption of figs has been on the increase, promoted by a swathe of presentations by leading chefs on various ‘foodie’ television shows as well as by the general consumer trend of growing awareness of innovative, new and exotic types of fruits. As a Mediterranean fruit, figs have been cultivated (actually harvested in the wild, similar to olives) since
The fig’s success probably owes to its botanic genetics (most varieties) being Parthenocarpic, meaning it requires no pollination to produce fruit (similar to the banana). The common fig is a member of the genus Ficus, in the family Moraceae (mulberries are of this same family). Ficus is a large genus with some 2,000 tropical and subtropical tree, shrub, and vine species distributed around the warmer parts of the world. The only Ficus cultivated for its fruit is the species F.carica (the common fig) and F.sycamorus (the sycamore fig of Egypt). Hybrids are possible with a few other species, including F.palmata, F. pseudo-carica, and F. pumila, the fruits of which are edible but not cultivated. The fruit of all Ficus species is the syconium, an enlarged, fleshy, hollow peduncle that bears closely massed, tiny flowers on its inner wall. The true fruits are tiny drupelets that develop from these flowers. When we eat a fig, we are actually eating the container that holds the true fruit. The interesting fact about fruit producing perennials cultivated in hydroponics is that although the plant is considered deciduous (requiring dormancy), this is not
Average Persian fig produced in hydroponics (60-90g)
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 47
New seedlings two weeks from budding.
Early bud shoots at around one month.
48 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
necessarily the case (like other plants, which adapt to different climate conditions and do not need dormancy). It behaves as an evergreen in tropical and sub-tropical regions. In controlled hydroponic conditions the plant is extremely fast growing and can be easily trained to perform differently than it would do in its natural habitat. Supporting the fig plant in a controlled environment, using hydroponic techniques to achieve continuous growth and year-round yields, makes fig production a lucrative option in terms of the delivery of fruit crops of high value. Most market demand for figs occurs in the Northern Hemisphere, including Europe and the USA where short-day periods experienced during winter are not conducive to the production of figs (at least not economically). In the Southern Hemisphere, growers have the climactic advantage of producing quality fruits of high value to the European and American markets. Naturally, there is always a local market demand for second-grade fruit. Several experiments â€“ mainly in universities â€“ have been conducted to investigate fig production in hydroponics. Two of these research studies were undertaken in Mexico and Japan and are well recorded (see references below). The first fully commercial hydroponic production of black table fig (Persian variety) has now been operational for three years and has generated good yields, which were timed, according to export requirements. The fig trees are responding very well to greenhouse and hydroponic conditions. Technically speaking, if a plant is kept in a constant photoperiod and temperature with a specific fertigation program, it will set fruit at least twice a year. Managing figs within a greenhouse environment is considerably less labour intensive in comparison to the production of traditional crops such as peppers and tomatoes. The plants require certain operating protocols to allow ongoing rejuvenation following harvest. In comparison to open field orchard figs, full production of hydroponically grown figs is attainable within six to 18 months compared to three to four years in an open orchard. Production per tree is higher with 12-20 fruits per shoot. The quality, size and brix are also much higher. In terms of cost and investment, figs are easily propagated and one-off purchasing of good rootstock Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 49
varieties can result in multiple plants within one season, so there are minimal costs in terms of plant material.
HealtH beneFits oF Figs Figs are low in calories – 100g of fresh figs have only 74 calories. However, they also contain health benefiting soluble dietary fibre, minerals, vitamins, and pigment anti-oxidants that contribute immensely towards optimum health and wellness. Dried figs are an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. In fact, dried figs possess higher concentrations of energy, minerals and vitamins. – 100g of dried figs provide 249 calories. Fresh figs, especially the black mission variety, are high in poly-phenolic flavonoid anti-oxidants such as carotenes, lutein, tannins, and chlorogenic acid. Additionally, fresh figs contain adequate levels of antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, E, and K. Together, these phytochemical compounds in fig fruit help scavenge harmful oxygen derived free radicals from the human body and offer protection from cancers, diabetes, degenerative diseases and infections. Furthermore, research studies suggest that chlorogenic acid in figs help lower blood sugar levels and control blood-glucose levels in type-II diabetes mellitus (adult onset) condition. Fresh, as well as dried figs contain good levels of
Fruit setting at 60 days.
Fruit ripened at 130 days (and for 60 days).
50 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine, folates, and pantothenic acid. These vitamins function as co-factors for the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
about tHe autHor: A prominent hydroponics expert in South Africa, Ben Safronovitz specialises in specific future crops development and its integration with hydroponic technology. Ben’s mission is to make knowledge and information about hydroponics available to growers to increase food production and crop options without the limitation of commercial gain considerations. b References: Kawamata, M., Ohara, H., Ohkawa, K., Murata, Y., Takahashi, E., & Matsui, H. (2002). Double cropping of fig [Ficus carica] under hydroponic culture. Journal of the Japanese Society for Horticultural Science (Japan). Melgarejo P, Martı´nez J.J, Herna´ndez F, Salazar D.M, Martı´nez R. Preliminary results on fig soil-less culture. Departamento de Producción Vegetal y Microbiología (Universidad Miguel Hernández de Elche), Escuela Politécnica Superior, Universidad Miguel Hernández, Ctra. de Beniel Km. 3’2, 03312 Orihuela, Alicante, Spain Brien J. and Hardy S. Fig growing in NSW. Agfact H3.1.19, first edition, September 2002 Himelrick D.G. Fig production Guide. Auburn University. UPS 8M15, New April 1999, ANR-1145.
warm aPPle anD Fig salaD A delicious side dish or enjoyed on its own. Choose plump fresh figs and top with a maple Dijon dressing. Optional: sprinkle with chopped cooked bacon. Salad ingredients apples, small green 1 cup fresh figs 1 small clove garlic 1 tbsp shallot 1 bunch watercress Dressing 1 tbsp Dijon mustard 2 tbsp maple syrup Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Method: Slice apples lengthwise into sticks and steam lightly. Drain apples and add to other salad ingredients. Combine dressing ingredients in jar with lid and shake. Pour dressing over salad. Serve and enjoy. b
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Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 51
HYDROPONIC HOPS? WEâ€™LL DRINK TO THAT 52 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
in tHe us, cHange is brewing as minnesota’s First HyDroPonically grown HoPs are set to reVolutionise tHe way beer is ProDuceD. Photo: Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobiles) of the hop plant Humulus lupulus
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 53
in minnesota, usa, a small grouP oF FrienDs calling tHemselVes ‘rounD table HoPs’ Has successFully raiseD us$25,147 on crowDFunDing PlatForm, kickstarter to launcH an enterPrise to ProVe tHeir iDea tHat HoPs can be grown year-rounD in a HyDroPonic garDen For oFF-season FresH HoP HarVests. Round Table Hops – consisting of an entrepreneurial homebrewer with a degree in hydroponic greenhouse cultivation in Colorado and a group of four enterprising beer fans in Minnesota – says that if the project is successful, it could revolutionise the production of beer. Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobiles) of the hop plant Humulus lupulus. They are used primarily as a flavouring and stability agent in beer, to which they impart bitter, zesty, or citric flavours, although they are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine. The hop plant is a vigorous, climbing, herbaceous perennial, usually trained to grow up strings in a field called a hopfield, hop garden (nomenclature in the South of England), or hop yard (in the West Country and U.S.) when grown commercially. Many different varieties of hops are grown by farmers around the world, with different types being used for particular styles of beer. The fact that Humulus lupulus (hops) and Cannabis sativa (marijuana) have similar organoleptic properties (taste and smell) could indicate a common ancestry, however, this is not proof. Many plants make similar aroma molecules, known as terpenes and terpenoid compounds, including lemons (which make limonene), lavender (linalool) and conifers (pinene) yet none of them are closely related to cannabis or hops. Around 40 per cent of the world’s hops are grown in the Pacific Northwest, with about 74 per cent of all hops in America, grown in Washington and 97 per cent between Oregon, Idaho and Washington. These regions offer the perfect moist climate for hops — long wet rainy seasons coupled with day-long hot summer days.
HyDroPonically grown HoPs When the founders of Round Table Hops first posed the question of growing hops hydroponically, they were met with skepticism. The space needed and the cost of indoor heating and lighting seemed to pose almost insurmountable challenges. However, after weighing up the pros and cons, Round Table Hops set about utilising modern methods of 54 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2015
sustainable growing that circumvent common hop growing techniques. Then they launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign with the presumption of initial success. “The first thing we learned was that growing hops entirely indoors might reduce heating costs, but it sent lighting costs through the roof,” said co-founder Ben Vaughn. “Settling on greenhouses reduced the amount of artificial light we needed but increased our heating and cooling costs considerably.” The group knew that it was important to stabilise the temperature inside the greenhouse and came up with the idea of Subterranean Heating and Cooling System (SHCS). A network of tubes was installed on an insulated level four feet below the greenhouse – from this a heat battery was created. A small fan circulates hot, humid air through the pipes and the cooler soil around it creates dew. Water vapour turns to liquid in the air, re-releasing heat into the soil. “The air then re-enters the greenhouse cooler and dryer. That heat energy is stored all summer and during winter months, the exact opposite happens,” Ben said. Powering the entire greenhouse with a 6-inch fan reduces heating and cooling costs by about 70 per cent. The key to Round Table Hops’ year-round growing method is this innovative system that transfers the heat energy from the sun during warm months into the soil underneath the greenhouse via a network of underground tubes with an air intake and output. It’s a cost-effective way to maintain an ambient temperature year-round, and the ensuing conditions allows Round Table Hops to hold back-to-back growing seasons, accelerating the maturation process. “In the field, it can take three years, or three growing seasons, to mature,” Ben said. “That’s because it takes the plants that long to establish a root system to get adequate nutrients. In the greenhouse, we provide the nutrients for the plants. So the energy goes toward production early on, not the root system.” The first hops were harvested just 11 weeks after going into the greenhouse. Round Table Hops has already provided fresh cones to local breweries with all reports indicating everyone was satisfied with the quality. “Brewers are experimenters,” Ben said. “Their eyes light up at the prospect of a fresh-hop beer in the spring. Especially because no one else out of state would be doing it.”
Mike Michurski from Round Table Hops tends to a hop plant. Photo courtesy Chelsea Reeck Photography
One way Round Table Hops is conserving on lighting is tightening the spacing between plants, allowing them to grow more plants per acre foot.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 55
The Round Table Hops’ method uses artificial light along with natural light. The group is looking to try out LED lights for photoperiod rather than photosynthetic. However, this process is still tentative, as large-scale LED lights are a more expensive outlay. Traditionally, hop plants are spaced further apart so that each plant can receive adequate sunlight. “Hop plants are usually spaced on a plant per acre layout in order to capture adequate sunlight,” said Gayle Goschie, president of Goschie Farms in Oregon. One way Round Table Hops is conserving on lighting is tightening the spacing between plants, allowing them to grow more plants per acre foot. By supplementing natural light with additional LED lighting, Round Table Hops can space hop plants much closer together. “We can fit 10 acres worth of plants into each acre,” Ben Vaughan said. An important benefit of growing the hops indoors is that there is a reduced need for pesticides, making the process natural and sustainable. While the feasibility of production-scale hydroponic hop growing remains to be seen, Angela Orchinsky, a University of Minnesota plant pathologist and
Mike Michurski at Big Wood Brewery in Minnesota. Photo courtesy Chelsea Reeck Photography
56 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
researcher, believes that Round Table’s concept will work. “For the most part, if it is done right, growing crops in a greenhouse could reduce diseases by providing a physical barrier from the pathogens and reducing plant stresses by providing an optimal growing environment,” she says. Like many craft beer aficionados, Ben initially hoped to start his own brewery, but after much research he decided that the growing industry was in dire need of suppliers. “I wanted to impact the industry on a larger scale, and Round Table Hops answers an industry-wide problem,” he said. Cheers, I’ll drink to that. b
Founders of Round Table Hops. (L-R) Ben Vaughn, Erin Kayser, and Mike Michurski. Photo courtesy Chelsea Reeck Photography
The hop plant is a vigorous, climbing, herbaceousÂ perennial, usually trained to grow up strings in a field called a hopfield, hop garden, or hop yard.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 57
SCHOOL’S IN FOR AQUAPONICS year 12 stuDents at syDney’s nortHHolm grammar scHool HaVe just celebrateD tHeir First aquaPonics commercial sale. Photography by Sam Ross Northholm Grammar School is an independent coeducational day school located on a beautiful rural property in the Hill’s District of North West Sydney. As a comparatively small school, Northholm provides a unique opportunity for students of all ages to develop the knowledge, skills and personal attributes they need to live a purposeful life through a more personalised approach to education. Around 60 students from Years 9-12 who are studying agriculture and/or primary industries have been busy working on their school aquaponics project at Northholm 58 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
Grammar School’s Aquaponics Centre. The team of both students and teachers recently sold their first commercial crop of home-grown vegetables. Design and technology teacher as well as aquaponics coordinator for the project is Andrew McMillan while Stellina Trestrail is the agricultural and primary industries coordinator. Mrs Trestrail started in her backyard and then took a Milkwood Permaculture course before setting up a small system at the school for agriculture students. In 2015, Mrs Trestrail and Mr McMillan completed a
practical aquaponics course for commercial production, as a result of a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) grant and decided to build a commercial system for the school.
so wHat HaVe been tHe main beneFits oF tHe Project? “The students are able to learn STEM integration through agriculture. Also, another plus is that students can learn and understand the benefits around sustainability, water management, system design, problem solving and community engagement in a practical, hands-on learning environment,” Mr McMillan said. Agricultural Technology teacher at the school, Melissa Duff said the program –called Aquaponics in Action – will encourage students to study STEM subjects later because of its vocational aspects. The ideas and skills covered directly link to later course requirements. “Students aren’t just reading, writing and discussing their subject’ Ms Duff said. “With Aquaponics in Action they will be experiencing their subjects, which is a far better way to consolidate their learning.” “Specific areas of focus for the program include sustainability, agriculture, the food system, financial literacy, economics, marketing and leadership,” Mr McMillan said. The program affords the school a way to introduce the concept of organic farming and the alternatives to
traditional production techniques that are available. “It’s completely organic because the fish produce natural fertiliser which is then used by the plants so no man-made chemicals are used,” said Year 9 student, Marcus D’Angola.
class act Set in an old locker shed near the school library, the aquaponics set-up at the school is an Indy 23 Aquaponics System designed by aquaponic expert, Murray Hallam. The design is the result of seven years of continuing research, trials and actual food production and is considered the state-of-the-art system for residential aquaponics systems. The system comes complete with media, deepwater (raft beds) and wicking beds.
Mrs Stellina Trestrail, Head of Agriculture at the School, checks on some of the plants' growth.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 59
Set in an old locker shed, the aquaponics setup is an Indy 23 Aquaponics System designed by aquaponic expert, Murray Hallam.
Design and technology teacher as well as aquaponics coordinator for the project is Andrew McMillan (2nd right).
Students learn the benefits around sustainability, water management, system design, problem solving and community engagement.
60 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
Types of plants grown include lettuce, Asian greens, herbs, cabbage, and snow peas. “We have slightly modified the system to suit the existing locker shed,” Andrew McMillan said. “Types of fish and plants grown in the aquaponics system include: silver perch, freshwater mussels, glass shrimp, lettuce, Asian greens, herbs, cabbage, and snow peas.” Although it is early days as yet for the aquaponics project to yield sizeable amounts of produce, Andrew McMillan said it is projected that eventually, 200-300 items – including fish and vegetables – will be harvested per fortnight. The produce is mainly distributed throughout the school community, including staff, parents and the school canteen. The Aquaponics Centre was approved by The Hills Council earlier this year and the first commercial sale of its produce is the first sign of its success. Principal of Northholm Grammar, Lynne Guthridge said that the aquaponics initiative at the school was an exciting development. “As well as offering another way of teaching and engaging our students in the important STEM subjects, it will also be a showcase and teaching resource for other schools and another agricultural training facility on our school grounds,” she said. b
The Aquaponics in Action project gives students an invaluable hands-on learning experience.
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SUNNIES FOR PLANTS Australian researchers are working on the development of an energy-saving glass that can be likened to sunglasses for plants. 62 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
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Students at Swinburne University of Technology. If successful, the research will have a huge impact on Australian glass industries and greenhouse facility manufacturers.
under research by melbourne-based swinburne university of technology with funding from Horticulture innovation australia (Hort innovation), the glass will adjust in colour during different times of the day to create the optimal climate for plants. it also aims to improve energy use in greenhouses through the use of semi-transparent solar-glass, translating into potential long-term cost savings for australian growers. A team of leading researchers from Swinburne will undertake the project, including glass and photovoltaic scientists from the Centre for Micro-photonics, horticulture experts from the Department of Trades and Engineering Technology and economists from the Centre for Transformative Innovation. Hort Innovation Chief Executive John Lloyd said the technology, which is being investigated using vegetable levies and matched funds from the Australian Government, could present a game changer for industry. “Industry tells us that it is finding glass-based protected cropping an attractive option, as it allows the grower greater control over an environment within an enclosed area,” he said. “However, what has been prohibitive to many growers are the energy costs. What this project aims to do is find a solution to some of those issues by looking into the development of a product which has the potential to bring cost savings and ultimately increase the viability of protected cropping.” Lead researcher of the Swinburne team, Associate Professor Baohua Jia from Swinburne’s Centre for Micro-photonics said the project will focus specifically on solar glass (SG) and semi-transparent photovoltaic glass (STPVG). “We’ll look at frontier technologies that have the power to change the transmittance and/or select the different colors of light transmitting through glass that
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promote energy to enhance crop productivity,” Associate Professor Jia said. One of the biggest challenges facing greenhouses today is the often high level of energy consumption. “At this moment when people want to start their greenhouse they really need to consider how long it takes to pay off, so in our case we’re considering two technologies,” Associate Professor Jia said. “The first one is based on semi-transparent glass – that means we can actually change the light coming into the greenhouse. “The simplest case is in the summertime when there is a hot sun. We can try to really block the peak part to protect the plants from overheating,” she said. In winter this glass can also keep the warm air inside instead of having the plants exposed to the cool. “That’s really the simplest case – we can also tune the ribbons to different colors coming through this glass to reach the vegetables,” Associate Professor Jia said. “We also have solar panels, and not many people know that plants don’t need all the colours – in the solar spectrum there are at least seven colours, but for most of the plants they only need probably three or four colours. “So for example, it could be red and blue or a combination of them to have the maximum productivity so the rest of the spectrum we can use to harness the electricity,” she said. If the glass is deemed viable for industry use, the second phase of the project will involve trialling the most cost-effective group of solutions, with the potential to trial the technology on-farm at various commercial sites in Victoria. “If successful, the research will also have a huge impact on glass industries and greenhouse facility manufacturers all over Australia, and the world,” Associate Professor Jia said. b
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Managing Director of Piñata Farms, Gavin Scurr.
Piñata Farms HarVests its First substrate strawberries Piñata Farms has announced that it is picking its first substrate-grown strawberries at Wamuran on the Sunshine Coast after venturing into substrate production over winter. Piñata Farms is a proud Queensland family 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. Piñata Farms grows winter strawberries at Wamuran and summer strawberries at Stanthorpe, southern Queensland, for year-round availability. Fruit is produced both in the open field and under polytunnels. Substrate strawberries grow in coconut coir on tiered shelves. Managing director
Gavin Scurr said the quality of fruit produced using the substrate method had so far exceeded expectations. “The eating quality is superb and the berries have a vibrant colour with a natural sheen. Because they’re growing under polytunnels, they’ve stayed warm throughout winter and that’s resulted in brighter, cleaner fruit,” Mr Scurr said. Mr Scurr said Piñata Farms had invested more than $1 million in erecting 1.5 hectares of polytunnels at Wamuran and another eight hectares at Stanthorpe in southern Queensland as part of its strawberry business expansion.He added that while commercial substrate was in its infancy in Australia, Piñata Farms believed that it would that it would become widespread in the next 10 years. “Set-up costs for substrate and polytunnel production are extremely high. However, we’ve decided to make the move now so when the rest of the industry goes that way, we will have already trialled and refined these methods,” Mr Scurr said. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 67
Polytunnels covering strawberries growing at Piñata Farms, Wamuran.
”We’re expecting substrate production will improve fruit quality and achieve efficiencies. The tunnels will keep fruit dry, so there will be less waste and, because it will be warmer in the tunnels, we’re expecting a moderate increase in yield. Substrate production takes the ground out of play, so plants won’t be waterlogged or susceptible to soil-borne pests and diseases. It’s a sterile environment, which should result in a more uniform crop,” he said. Mr Scurr said the Albion variety, which Piñata Farms had produced for some time, was the chief variety being grown in substrate. US-developed varieties, Portola and San Andreas were being trialled.
substrate oFFers HoPe aFter a tougH season According to Gavin Scurr, as the substrate harvest progresses, all indications are for a positive
Freshly harvested strawberries ready for market.
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outcome.“We’re hoping to keep producing substrate fruit at Wamuran for several months yet,” he said. “By then, harvesting will have begun at Stanthorpe, leading to peak production in November. There should be a plentiful supply of Piñata strawberries right through until Christmas.” Mr Scurr said he expected the field-grown harvest at Wamuran to end by early October, depending on the weather. “Once the temperature reaches 30 degrees, it starts to get challenging as it’s too hot for the fruit.” Mr Scurr said it had been a tough season for Queensland strawberry producers with yield down about 20 per cent on a per plant basis across the industry. “That’s due to an unseasonally warm autumn which delayed planting for many growers and resulted in plants being less robust than usual,” he said.
However, early substrate results at Wamuran had buoyed hopes for a good start to summer production, he said. “Wamuran’s climate means we can produce fieldgrown and substrate strawberries progressively from now on, with the aim being to extend the season as late as possible to fill a supply window in October and November. “At Stanthorpe, both field and polytunnel crops produce at the same time, so we’ll aim to produce fruit earlier there, so there’s no drop in the total yield between the farms”.
new Varieties Promise to eXtenD season Piñata Farms has selected three new European-bred varieties for commercial trials following Mr Scurr’s recent visit to some of Europe’s best strawberry breeders. Depending on the outcome of trials, they will be commercially produced in 2020. “We’ve selected two winter varieties to grow at Wamuran. Both have a better yield while maintaining flavour. The variety we’ve selected for summer production has been specifically chosen to fill a supply window in the April-May period.” Mr Scurr said varietal selection was key in Piñata Farms’ quest to produce strawberries outside the traditional Queensland strawberry season. “The industry would produce three times as much fruit in September than in October. We’re trying to plug gaps at both ends of the supply period by looking at varieties and matching them to growing methods and growing regions.” b
Substrate strawberries growing at Piñata Farms, Wamuran in Queensland.
Piñata strawberries are available at leading supermarkets in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 69
DOWN ON THE FARM: managing stress and depression 70 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016
tHe HyDroPonic anD greenHouse enVironment can be a stressFul workPlace; tHe Pressure to ProDuce a quality ProDuct consistently, ProViDing gooD customer serVice, Dealing witH comPlaints, working to tigHt timelines, Financial worries, climate anD rural isolation, can all imPact on grower anD worker wellbeing. tHis article looks at stress, DePression anD suiciDe in tHe australian Farming community. by steVen carrutHers
Although farmers are renowned for being tough, it is well recognised that primary production is a physically and psychologically demanding occupation (Deary et al., 1997). In Australia, farming is characterised by high rates of stress (Gray & Lawrence, 1996), injury and suicide (Page & Fragar, 2002). According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, there were 2844 deaths due to suicide in 2014, a rate of 12 per 100,000 people. That’s about 7.8 suicides each day. The data shows that all people who live in rural and regional Australia – not just farmers – are at an increased risk of suicide. On a global scale, about 800,000 people commit suicide worldwide every year. Of these, 135,000 (17%) are residents of India, a nation with 17.5% of world population. Between 1987 and 2007, the suicide rate increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000, with higher suicide rates in southern and eastern states of India. Most suicides result from stress and depression, two insidious mental health issues in society. An insight into stress and depression in the Australian farming community can be found in a BeyondBlue research project – Depression in farmers and farming families – which was completed in 2005. The study involved farmers across northwestern Victoria and western New South Wales and examined rates of psychological distress among farmers. Farmers were also interviewed about their perceptions of the impact of their lifestyle and work on mental health, and help-seeking behaviours for mental health problems. There have been no other definitive studies on depression in the farming community of note.
tHe beyonDblue researcH Project iDentiFieD Four key issues: • Rates of psychological distress • Resilience in the face of adversity • Limited acceptance of depression and other psychological problems among individuals and the farming community • Barriers to care in farming communities.
rates oF PsycHological Distress While farming is recognised as a high-stress industry, the study did not find higher rates of psychological distress among farmers, compared with non-farmers (Judd et al., 2006). In fact, this study identified that common personality traits found among farmers may protect against psychological distress.
resilience in tHe Face oF aDVersity All the farmers interviewed were strongly attached to farming as both an occupation and a way of life. They also described an array of stressors. Despite these demands,
people displayed a high level of resilience in the face of adversity. It was clear from the data that there was considerable evidence to support the stereotype of farmers as tough and resourceful. The survey data also identified that farmers were less likely to be depressed and anxious compared with nonfarmers. Participants spoke about overcoming a range of challenges through their determination and hard work, as the quote from Sally, a female farmer, highlights: “Life was pretty damn tough, it was tough for me and it was extremely tough for the kids, we had no money … we had nothing, we didn’t even have a television or a refrigerator… we had an esky from the tip! How did I cope mentally? I focused on the future and …on the job at hand…and on my own ability and I just worked my guts out.”
limiteD accePtance oF DePression anD otHer PsycHological Problems among inDiViDuals anD tHe Farming community Participants identified that when faced with problems, it was important to stay positive and develop practical solutions. There was limited acceptance and acknowledgement of distressing feelings and issues such as depression. People who dwelled upon problems were described as ‘whingers’. This attitude was most common among male farmers, who often rejected the notion that farming difficulties affected them psychologically, as the following exchange between Paul and Alice demonstrates: Alice: Paul, at one stage, was not sleeping. It was just dreadful. All he could talk about was water; it was not easy to live with him for quite some time. He used to lie there and toss and turn… but they don’t admit to having a problem. Paul: There is no point going out and whinging about it; you just sort of wear it, don’t you? They don’t admit to it, but then they don’t have a problem. Alice: It is not something you admit. Paul: I don’t get stressed. Alice: See, there you go! Not all male farmers in the study reported these types of responses to stressful situations, with a number emphasising the importance of talking to others and seeking help. They did note however, that their attitudes were not common among the farming community. While open discussion of problems was often seen as inappropriate, alcohol use was seen as a much more acceptable response to dealing with challenging times and experiences and alcohol consumption was deeply entrenched in the farming culture. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 71
barriers to care in Farming communities A range of barriers to mental health care were identified including: • A preference to seek help from friends and family rather than from health professionals • Stigma associated with mental illness leading to limited acceptance of mental health care • Reduced sense of confidentiality: the population size of small farming communities typically means there is a high level of local knowledge and visibility among residents. Thus, there was a sense that maintaining anonymity and confidentiality when accessing services could be compromised. Participants reported that this increased likelihood of community awareness of service utilisation, limited their access to mental health care. • limited accessibility of formal health providers and services due to geographic distance and limited availability of providers.
stuDy conclusions Farmers do not appear to experience higher rates of psychological distress, compared with the non-farming
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community. However, a range of personal and structural barriers does exist for farmers in terms of accessing mental health care when mental health problems emerge. Personal strength, independence and ‘toughing it out’ are central values in farming culture, and seeking help for mental health problems is seen as the antithesis of these values. The project concluded that further efforts needed to be made to address the personal implications of acknowledging that one has mental health problems. In addition, the study concluded that there needed to be greater availability and accessibility of mental health care providers.
workers anD emPloyees Workers and employees can also be stressed for reasons ranging from a hot and humid working environment, poor teamwork and morale, to difficulties in the family home. Here are a few suggestions on how to reduce stress in the workplace, recommended by EPIC Access, a leading not-for-profit organisation that provides a personalised service to assist people with disability or disadvantage to achieve their goals:
• Be clear – make sure everyone knows their job role and their tasks for the day • Be supportive – help someone who looks like they’re struggling, sometimes just asking if they need help will make them feel better • Don’t apply undue pressure – no good comes from making demands or setting deadlines, which can’t be met. • Notice – has there been any change in someone’s behaviour, or are they complaining more often than usual? • Be honest – stop and think. What was the contributing factor? What happened before the changes began? • Talk – ask your colleague R U OK? Have a long discussion about the issues affecting their behaviour. • Change – form a plan of action to rectify the situation and reduce the workplace stress for everyone.
alcoHol anD DePression There is a strong link between excessive alcohol consumption and depression. Self-medication with alcohol is a common, but unsafe and an ineffective coping strategy for farmers and other people living in rural and remote areas. The National Centre for Farmer Health highlights that alcohol only masks the symptoms of depression and stress, and can make you feel worse. Support services can assist country people to find other ways to tackle depression. Find out more about this topic on the Better Health Channel.
symPtoms oF DePression studies suggest that farmers who are depressed don’t tend to use the word ‘depression’ to describe their state of mind, but may describe it as ‘stress’ instead. However, stress and depression are not the same and require different approaches to treatment. Some of the symptoms of depression include: • feeling sad or flat • losing interest and pleasure in normal activities • appetite or weight loss (also binge/comfort eating and weight gain) • sleep problems, such as an inability to fall sleep or early waking • feeling tired all the time • concentration problems • feelings of restlessness, agitation, worthlessness or guilt • not motivated to socialise or exercise • feeling that life isn’t worth living.
Final remarks Investigators and health care workers continue to explore stress and depression and issues around stigma, attitudes toward help-seeking, alcohol and depression, and suicide in the farming community. b References: Australian Bureau of Statistics (http://www.abs.gov.au/). Accessed 18 Sept 2016. BeyondBlue (https://www.beyondblue.org.au). Accessed 18 Sept 2016. Deary, I., Willock, J., & McGregory, M (1997), Stress in Farming, Stress Medicine 13 (131), 136. EPIC Assist (http://epicassist.org/au/). Accessed 18 Sept 2016.
24-Hour telePHone counselling if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call: lifeline australia on 13 11 14 kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 samaritans on 13 52 47 suicide call back service on 1300 659 467 beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 (24/7)
Gray, I., & Lawrence, G., (1996), Predictors of Stress Among Australian Farmers, Australian Journal Of Social Issues 31 (2), 173-189. Judd, F., Jackson, H., Fraser, C., Murray, G., Robbins, G., & Komiti, A., (2006), Understanding suicide in Australian farmers, Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology 41 (1), 1-10. National Centre for Farmer Health (http://www.farmerhealth.org.au/). Accessed 18 Sept 2016. Page, A & Fragar, L (2002), Suicide in Australian farming, 19881997, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 36 (1), 81-5. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . October . 2016. 73
PONICS & GREENHOUSES