Turning car parks into urban horticultural farms, creating floating greenhouses and building container farms are just some of the opportunities explored in a new report that investigates high-tech cultivation solutions to Australia’s increasing climate variability.
Commissioned by Hort Innovation and developed by agricultural consultancy RMCG in partnership with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and global urban agriculture consultancy Agritecture, the Opportunities for High-Technology Horticulture in Australia report examines the applications effective urban agriculture used overseas, in the Australian context.
The report examines the types of high-tech farms that could work in Australia and makes a number of recommendations to improve the feasibility of the approach, such as building producer capacity and improving social acceptance. through community engagement.
Hort Innovation’s director of research and development, Dr Vino Rajandran, said high-tech urban agriculture is an emerging part of the horticultural sector in Australia. He said that despite the low adoption of these new high-tech production systems in Australia compared to Asia, North America and Europe, there is growing interest.
“As Australia’s climate becomes increasingly variable, consumer demand for locally grown produce increases and sustainable production takes over, there is growing interest in technology-controlled local production systems. “, did he declare.
Dr Rajandran said high-tech urban horticulture systems are a natural complement to traditional horticultural production systems and the emerging industry will need to identify its value proposition within the Australian context. “High-tech urban agriculture has the potential to attract a younger, more tech-driven generation to farming and provide opportunities for tech graduates to join the industry,” he said. he declares.
RMCG associate Dr Kristen Stirling said the report looked at systems such as floating roofs and greenhouses, growing approaches using building facades and production inside buildings – but not all systems were not viable in Australia. “High-tech horticulture has its advantages over field production in that it can be controlled by climate and production is not necessarily based on certain seasons,” he said. she stated. “However, certain factors increase the costs, such as high land prices in urban areas and the large expenditure required to establish greenhouses inside or on top of buildings.
“In terms of social, financial and environmental performance, we found that the best performing high-tech system for Australian conditions was the building facade, followed by a rooftop greenhouse using a vertical production system.”
Good management needed
Dr Stirling said the success of individual businesses is also highly dependent on the product line chosen, the business model used and the skills and abilities of the COO. “High-tech horticulture, like any other agricultural business, is an activity that requires careful planning and good management,” she said.
The study was guided by an industry-led reference group, comprising growers and emerging business leaders engaged in high-tech urban horticulture in Brisbane and Sydney, members of local city councils and experts in material in protected crops.
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