‘Solutions for Sustainable Growth’

WEB_PCA_LogoA practical conference for greenhouse, hydroponic and aquaponic growers

The biennial Protected Cropping Australia Conference will be held in Melbourne from Sunday 28 to Wednesday 31 July 2013.

This is the 12th conference (previously the Australian Hydroponic & Greenhouse Conference). With one significant addition, the organisers have retained the very popular format of earlier conferences. That is: the trade exhibition opens on Sunday afternoon, followed by presentations on Monday and Tuesday. Monday has the keynote and plenary sessions in the morning, then splits into concurrent sessions in the afternoon. However, this time on Tuesday we have added four streams of special interest topics. These are aimed at developing the skills of the following grower groups:

• Fruit and vegetables
• Cut flowers
• Leafy greens (lettuce, herbs, Asian greens)
• Aquaponics

In total there is a choice of over 30 technical topics presented by internationally acclaimed industry researchers, consultants and growers, sharing their practical experiences. There is a wide range of topics on Monday, then on Tuesday there will be mainly the special interest streams.

An example of the internationally recognised experts presenting is Dr Nick Savidov, a Canadian Senior Research Scientist specialising in advanced commercial aquaponic systems. He has modified older versions of aquaponics by introducing aerobic bio-digestion to recover nutrients and water, and improving oxygenation. This has led, for the first time, to a system, which is virtually sustainable; that is, capable of converting virtually all the input organic fish food into fish and plants.

There will be a fascinating keynote speaker in Jurgen Kleinwachter—a German professor who, together with his late father, is considered to be the European pioneer of solar technology. Their company has been at the leading edge of developing innovative solar technology for 30 years. Jurgen has a far reaching insight into the use of light and optics in horticulture. He has a grand vision of our future world and especially isolated communities and how we will use the power of the sun to heat, cook and generate electricity.

Organisers are delighted to have three highly respected Dutch consultants involved. Ben van Onna is presenting ‘Consequences of climate differences in greenhouses’ and ‘New greenhouse air handling systems for Australia’. Wim van der Ende is presenting ‘Plant physiology for flowers (temp, water and CO2)’. Herman Eijkleboom is presenting ‘Nutrient deficiency in floricultural crops’ and ‘Irrigation strategy in substrates’.

For the detailed program please visit the Protected Cropping Australia website www.protectedcroppingaustralia.com

As usual there is an exciting exhibition as part of the conference. There are 50 booths including more than a dozen from overseas, mainly from Holland. The exhibition opens on Sunday afternoon, when it is open to all growers. It remains open for delegates on Monday and Tuesday, giving ample opportunity to have all your questions answered.

For any company interested in being a sponsor/exhibitor, at the time of going to press there were fewer than 10 booths available, so please follow up before you miss out. Contact Rick Donnan 02 4567 7685 or email: pcaconference@westnet.com.au

The conference will be held at the Pullman Melbourne Conference Centre (previously the Sebel Albert Park). This is a great venue for the for the conference, having been recently renovated, as well as being attached to the Pullman Melbourne Albert Park and Mercure hotels. There is also plenty of other accommodation nearby at all price levels.

If you have not come to a PCA conference before, then you may not realise that usually the most important benefits you gain comes from the fantastic opportunity offered to network with exhibitors, presenters and especially other growers. One small idea put into action can save you many times the cost of attending.

To help provide networking opportunities the conference format allows extended lunch and afternoon and afternoon tea breaks. There are also two very sociable functions—a welcome function on Sunday evening and the conference banquet dinner on Monday evening.

Farm tours
Flowers Victoria has sponsored a breakfast tour to the Melbourne Flower Market early Tuesday morning, to arrive back in time for the start of presentations.

On Wednesday 31 July there will be three different tours to visit farms—a fruit and vegetable tour, a flower tour and a general mixed tour. This is a great opportunity to see commercial hydroponics at work. The tours are an optional extra and are strictly only available to conference delegates.

For more detail check out the PCA website www.protectedcroppingaustralia.com, or contact the organisers, Rick Donnan and Rosemary Viggers 02 4567-7685 or email: pcaconference@westnet.com.au