The peak industry body for the greenhouse & hydroponic industry, Protected Cropping Australia, has again put on a successful grower day in the Western Sydney region of New South Wales.
The day started at the Western Sydney University (WSU) and kicked off with 3 very informative talks from WSU Associate Professor David Tissue on “Novel glass for horticultural production” and focused on SmartGlass and the university’s collaborated research with Swinborne University. Next up WSU Associate Professor Richard Spooner-Hart on “Pollination research with native bees in protected cropping”. Lastly, WSU Associate Professor Zhong-Hua Chen on “Tertiary pathway and masterclasses” – which is really looking at ways of educating and training the professionals of the future for the protected cropping industry.
After the 3 speakers, all the guests were given a tour of the WSU Hi Tech Glasshouse & Training facility. Here, PCA members were given an overview of the project and the dynamics of such a hi-tech research facility by Scott Featherstone of AIS Greenworks, being shown all the different compartments, features, irrigation tanks, mixing tanks and control systems. This was followed by both Associate Professors (David Tissue & Robert Spooner-Hart) explaining in more detail their studies and research methods within this unique facility. Lastly, the group was addressed by Phil Richie from Rijk Zwaan on the egg plant production cycle and the enormous potential this crop has in such hi-tech systems.
The tour group then gathered for the PCA’s Annual General Meeting which showed a hugely improved structure to the organisation with a new constitution, a brand new governance manual, a detailed strategic plan and a board focused on taking the organisation strongly into the future to serve its members and keep relevant. The 2019 Costa PCA Conference was promoted and members were strongly encouraged to get everyone they know to come along to this huge event in July 2019.
The AGM was followed by a tour of Greening Australia and talk from Robert Peprahs. This was a fascinating visit on how this company is using protected cropping to propagate and grow over 200 native shrubs and trees for “greening Australia”.
The large group jumped on a bus which took everyone to visit Jimmy & Lucy Azzopardi and their 4 children’s medium tech tomato farm. Another interesting visit looking at how they are using brand new sawdust every crop as a growing medium and adding compost teas which were really reducing the incidences of disease. This was a very relatable visit for most growers a small family business putting everything into it and doing it well.
The last visit for the day was to Peter Muscat’s NFT lettuce farm – 2 stand outs from this visit was Peter’s attitude to seeding and propagating all his own lettuces so as not to introduce pathogens, insects or diseases to this property. This was obviously working as it was exceptionally clean of pests and diseases. The second, being his attention to his market by supplying a larger lettuce head and a superior product in order to survive in a highly competitive market.
The day ended with an afternoon tea provided by PCA’s secretary Saskia Blanch. It was full of delicious goodness all produced in protected cropping environments and included raspberries, blueberries, mini snack cucumbers, mini snack tomatoes, mini capsicums plus a few cheeky choccie biscuits.
PCA acknowledged its sponsors for the day which included AIS Greenworks, Powerplants, Apex, Local Land Services in conjunction with National Vegetable Extension Network, Western Sydney University, HIA and NSW Primary Industries.