Report Synopsis

Protected Cropping in Tropical Australia. Securing food production in Northern Australia

Ross Pirrone

The northern horticultural industry is one with its own set of unique problems and limitations which over time, have limited the implementation of conventional environmental protection technologies. Problems with current technologies include inability to handle increasingly severe weather events, exacerbation of the problem they were originally trying to solve, creation a different, more invasive problem, or lead to a higher cost of production than possibly could be currently accepted by the market.

Research and the subsequent following report identify the technologies relevant and applicable to the three core setup features in a tropical indoor protected cropping system.

Structure - The buildings or coverings suited to shielding the intense heat but flexible enough to manage severe weather events.

Growing media - The material in which crops are grown and the limitations/advantages associated with each.

Irrigation/Fertigation Systems – The two main options when considering the water and nutrient demand supply methods within the protected structure and the considerations to be made.

Each possible option detailed in this report include the following specific points and an explanation to allow local producers to identify what would be best suited to their desired production situation.

Global Example – A personal real-world example of the specific aspect being evaluated, and the feedback/points taken directly from that farm.

Capital Costs – Like all specific financial situations in agriculture, the accurate cost is greatly influenced by the presented situations different attributing factors such as but not limited to local climate, financial capacity, skill capacity, crop etc. That being said a broad indication of the costing structure is indicated relative to the spectrum of available options.

Operation – Like capital costs and operational details of a specific aspect of a protected cropping system implemented into a tropical climate is greatly affected by the specific situation and them being too vast and variable within themselves made a specific outline hard to obtain. That being said an indicative guideline relative to the spectrum of available options is outlined.

Yield Potential – Instead of listing specific crop types and varieties, an indication is established on the long-term average of most suitable crops (i.e. crops currently grown outdoors at or close to the production climate zone).

Advantages / Disadvantages – A simple itemised list of the advantages and disadvantages that this protected cropping system technology provides.

All these varied technology investigations and conclusions are not meant to be a specific recommendation for what all farm production systems d should look like, but instead are to give the reader a broad understanding of the changes that can quickly be made to production systems to begin the evaluation and commercialisation process. Through global experience and on farm commercialisation trial experience, all advice and products and protected cropping technologies should be evaluated on face value and proven within a unique production system, crop and climate.

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