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Australia: Figs from the greenhouse

Alan Richards never set out to be a commercial fig farmer.

After all, his early farming years saw him growing table beans for Edgell, run an intensive sow piggery, and milk 400 dairy cattle.

But four years ago, following a lifelong interest in hydroponics, Alan bought a 22ha neighbouring farm with a 2900sq m low-tech hothouse and began dabbling in varying greenhouse crops.

“It had originally grown carnations,” said the 53-year-old, who will present a paper at this year’s Felton Food Festival (March 25-26) looking at the science behind his farming methods, as well as running farm tours.

“We tried a whole range of crops including pak choy, eggplants, three different varieties of cucumbers and truss tomatoes. They all grew easily but all it really did was create jobs. They were low returning crops.”

A chance conversation with a mate who worked in vegetable production pointed him to figs.

“He had for a long time been importing figs in the off-season and he said if you can grow them when no one else is, then you’ll have a business.”

The serendipity continued when Alan sourced fig tree cuttings from a neighbour’s backyard, in the brown turkey variety.

After propagation, he ended up with 60 trees and became one of only two greenhouse fig growers in Queensland (“that I know of”).

Read more at The Weekly Times

Publication date: 3/16/2017



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