Quality input equals quality output

Would you feed an athlete junk food or run an F1 car on standard fuel and expect them to perform—of course not. Quality input equals quality output. By CHRISTINE BROWN-PAUL

This sums up the philosophy behind the special diet served up to premium, hydroponically grown, leafy greens for Queensland grower Brian Ellis, who operates a 6000-square metre production area near Childers.In fact, through extensive trial and error over the course of time, Brian has developed his own branded nutritional blends under the banner, Hydromix Australia, which now blends crop specific premium nutrients for all crop types and sells product all over the country and internationally. Recent export destinations have included the UK and Pakistan.

Leafy greens grower Brian Ellis (right), Childers, discusses the nutritional formulations used for hydroponically grown leafy greens to Haifa Australia Sales Agronomist Peter Anderson and Lindsay Rural Bundaberg Branch Manager, Les Loney.

Leafy greens grower Brian Ellis (centre) discusses the nutritional formulations used for hydroponically grown leafy greens to Haifa Australia Sales Agronomist, Peter Anderson, and Lindsay Rural Bundaberg Branch Manager, Les Loney.

Brian, who also represents the Leafy Greens sector on the Board of Protected Cropping Australia, spent many years in the agriculture and transport industries, but always had an interest in horticulture and was originally involved in ground growing of chillies, tomatoes and other vine crops.
However, back problems from a serious car accident put paid to that and he soon recognised that growing hydroponic produce at table height using the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) was the ticket to better health.

Most of Brian’s production is now comprised of premium fresh cut salads, but over the years he has grown many different crops, and he has been honing his NFT skills for some 14 years, so much so that he now consults on its application and related nutrition.

Brian’s NFT operation involves constant circulation of a nutrient solution to maintain a film of water in the NFT troughs, with auto dosing of the nutrients.
Osmosis allows lettuce roots to stay damp, while remaining exposed to atmospheric oxygen. Unlike floating hydroponic lettuce production, injection of oxygen into the water is not required.

Brian said he insisted on the use of high quality fertilisers from Haifa for his nutritional formulations. He added that the Haifa products were the main fertilisers used for his own lettuce growing and for the Hydromix Australia blends.

The primary Haifa products used include the company’s popular Multi-K potassium nitrate and MKP fertiliser.

Brian Ellis shows the root growth of lettuce grown hydroponically using NFT.

Brian Ellis shows the root growth of lettuce grown hydroponically using NFT.

“Quite simply, they have better solubility than other products and they are free of contaminants,’’ Brian said.

“The difference between using the best fertiliser brands and cheap inferior fertiliser and mixes is less than one cent per head of lettuce or a few cents per kilo of produce, and this is more than compensated for by increased output and more saleable product.

“Using a good, balanced fertiliser also assists to eliminate problems like blocked emitters and scale build-up in tanks and irrigation lines.’’

He said the specialist diet had resulted in improved production and weights, less tip burn, excellent colours, and improved shelf life and taste.

“Fancy hydroponic lettuce, if cultivated properly, is at least as good and often better than Iceberg lettuce for shelf life. You should get a minimum of 10 days out of leafy salads with the correct nutrition and cool chain.’’

About the author 

Rohan Howatson is the principal of Western Australian-based Howatson PR Communications: Ph: (08) 9279-4679 MB: 0407 428 459 

For further information about Haifa fertilisers contact: Trevor Dennis, Managing Director, Haifa Australia, Ph: 0400 119 852; Brian Ellis ,Ph: 0407 636 114, Email: clean@hotkey.net.auWebsite: brianellisconsulting.com

PH&G June 2013 / Issue 132