Aussie horticulture to get high-tech boost

17th December 2020 | Eativity editors

Australia’s grower-owned horticulture research and development corporation, Hort Innovation, is working with a consortium of Australian and international agriculture scientists and consultants to assess the potential of emerging food production technology and its application in the Australian urban landscape.

The use of growing technology like vertical farm systems and hydroponics can create food production and delivery systems that have the potential to redefine horticulture by optimising yield, quality and supply, benefiting both growers and consumers.

High-technology horticulture is being implemented in urban areas across the globe, with growers using vertical farm systems, hydroponics and aquaponic systems and almost fully automated production as well as rooftop, underground and floating farms.

A modular farm in Brisbane using high-tech horticulture.

“Bringing such technology to Australia will attract capital and new entrants to the sector with new ideas, approaches and mindsets,” says Hort Innovation CEO Matt Brand. “It gives us the opportunity to grow more from less and to keep demonstrating the good work that Australian growers do, day in day out, providing food to families both here and overseas.

“’Urban’ in this context also captures regional areas and hubs. Growers will use the technology as part of the overall production mix. It’s another production system that will be part of the diversity and variety that is Australian horticulture.”

The study is being guided by an industry-led group, including growers and emerging commercial leaders engaged in urban high technology horticulture in Brisbane and Sydney, members of local city councils and experts in greenhouse and hydroponic growing systems.

The six-month project aims to identify the opportunities and challenges for high-tech horticulture in urban Australia. It will look at a range of systems and assess their suitability to urban Australia by considering issues surrounding regulation and planning; farm input and waste; supply chain logistics; and social, environmental and economic aspects.

A high-tech horticulture rooftop farm at Lufa Farms in Montreal, Canada.

The outcomes of the study will identify future priorities for research and development, as well as investment opportunities for Australian high-tech horticulture in urban areas.

“The benefits to growers and Australia by use of technology such as vertical farm systems and hydroponics is local fresh food production and delivery systems that have the potential to redefine horticulture by optimising yield and quality, with reliability of supply every day of the year, with little to no supply gaps,” says greenhouse and hydroponic consultant Graeme Smith. “These new systems are the modern face of horticulture that should complement the current supply chain in a range of nutritious and delicious produce.”