Green solutions for greenhouse vegetable farmers

Arming Australian vegetable growers with practical and affordable solutions to reduce costs and carbon emissions in greenhouses and other protected cropping is the focus of a new collaborative industry working group.

The “Increasing energy efficiency and assessing an alternate energy option for Australian protected cropping” project is a three-and-a-half year collaboration between the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), Industry and Investment NSW (I&I NSW), and supported by Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL).

The DEEDI team includes Redlands Research Station officers David Hunt, Brock Dembowski and Shane Holborn. Scientist David Hunt said the project would help greenhouse growers to reduce costs and carbon emissions and make better energy investment decisions through easy-to-use and reliable tools.

“Protected cropping involves any type of structure such as a greenhouse, glasshouse, or poly-tunnel where the internal climate can be altered or controlled through heating or cooling systems to provide optimal growing conditions to suit the crop,” he said.

“The project will deliver to industry a comprehensive assessment of energy savings options and associated management techniques to encourage the adoption of improved energy efficiency and alternate energy systems.”

Primary activities will be undertaken in Queensland and New South Wales with national extension.

“The Queensland team is developing low-cost, energy saving strategies to help growers achieve optimum efficiency and implementing new management practices,” Mr Hunt said.

“Simple measures such as repairing damaged structures, servicing equipment, replacing bulbs with compact fluorescents are all effective energy-saving strategies that can save growers energy and money.

“The NSW project team is investigating alternative energy technologies for protected vegetable growers.”

Mr Hunt said DEEDI researchers would be running a series of workshops in vegetable growing regions as well as providing useful tools, including factsheets and walk-through survey packs to help growers realise energy efficiencies and cost savings.

“The practical tools are designed to help growers easily identify areas of their protected cropping facilities that could be improved to enhance energy conservation,” he said.

“Key reports will also inform greenhouse growers of the review outcomes and alternate energy options.”

The project will focus on existing greenhouse enterprises such as eggplant, zucchini, cucumber and capsicum, with the view to improving energy efficiency and implementing alternate energy supplementation systems.

Project leader and I&I NSW greenhouse industry specialist Jeremy Badgery-Parker said management of energy and environmental emissions was a significant challenge and opportunity for all of horticulture, including the protected cropping sector.

“Energy underlies this industry’s capacity to provide a consistent supply of fresh, quality, safe food in a changing global climate and will become an increasingly important factor in determining enterprise profitability as energy prices continue to rise,” Mr Badgery-Parker said.

“Alternate energy technologies and improved energy management are expected to be able to reduce energy demands of the greenhouse industry by 30 – 60%.

“This project is the critical step needed in moving the Australian greenhouse industry forward into adopting alternate, lower carbon energy options and improving energy efficiency.”

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