The prolonged water shortage challenges growers in Queensland and Australia more broadly to find more sustainable growing techniques. “Water is one of our biggest challenges,” says James Burnett, who has been growing berries for 15 years, with Paradise Fruits. Paradise Fruits has been growing a full range of Raspberries, Blueberries and Strawberries, near Brisbane for over twenty years.
From soil to hydroponic growing
“Over the last 5-10 years, we have seen a lot of growers switching from traditional growing in soil to hydroponic growing. We switched nine years ago. The use of hydroponics means we control our water requirements a lot more closely. That equates to less wasting of water and fertilizer, so we can continue to produce longer with a limited water supply.”
Higher than forecast yield
“It has taken, and still takes a lot of learning and occasionally making a few mistakes to get a really good working understanding of hydroponic growing. Substrate was no exception, we knew from some of our early experiences that we had to look for a high-quality substrate. We found Shakti Amla, which, due to the low PH was the ideal choice for us. On receiving our first batches of coir we could immediately see the quality in action compared to other products we had 'played around with' in our Raspberry operation. This gave us great confidence as our growing operations expanded into substrate growing of Blueberries. The plants' initial growth was explosive, giving a higher than forecast yield. As we are closing our third cropping season now, the material remains stable and will continue to support our plants giving great results for years to come."
Big blueberries as a result - coin for scale
According to Jack van Batenburg of Shakti Cocos, with Shakti Amla the grower gets a stronger and healthier plant with a relatively low investment. “It will cost about 0.1 cent per strawberry plug, about 5 cents for a 4 liter (strawberry) pot and less than 1.5 cent per liter substrate. A healthy plant has a higher level of resistance and will take up the nutrients better. As we all know: a good growing plant performs better."
From the factories in India and Sri Lanka, the cocos are supplied in pressed blocks, grow bags in all sizes, easyfills, 50 liter bags and as customer-specific products.
Jack: "Thanks to a patented way of processing cocos, Shakti Cocos can make a substrate that is physically and chemically exactly right for the relevant crop, even for crops that need low PH, like blueberries.”