A NEW commercial greenhouse in Queensland has proved its worth, enduring a hail storm during its opening week last month.
Melbourne-based tomato, capsicum, zucchini and eggplant grower-packer Young Sang & Co revealed the first stage of its project which covers 4.3 hectares of farmland at North Gregory in Bundaberg.
The greenhouse includes a state-of-the-art automated retractable roof from Canadian manufacturer, Cravo.
The greenhouse is the first of its kind in vegetable production in Australia and uses a hybrid
growing system, which boasts the best of both outdoor and protected systems.
The crops grown under in the facility will come under the new brand, Brella Fields.
Suppliers and business owners attended the facility's opening last Thursday and took the chance to discuss the future changes in fruit and vegetable production in Australia.
They also took part in a guided tour of the facility with Cravo president Richard Vollebregt.
The structure was put through its paces during the week of the opening with a hail storm dumping rain and whipping up 90-100km/hr winds.
While the company's outdoor crops were devastated, the Brella Fields produce remained unaffected and in perfect condition.
Young Sang & Co general manager Daniel Scavo welcomed the interest in the new facility.
"Through this retractable roof greenhouse we have the ability to benefit from the sunshine
and yet protect the crops when necessary," he said.
"We believe we are creating the best possible quality produce including capsicums, Roma tomatoes, petite capsicums and special snacking varieties of tomatoes."
Mr Scavo saw the retractable roofing system on a trip to Mexico.
“We saw the facilities by greenhouse company Cravo in Mexico last year, and while they exist in Australia, at the moment they’re only for nurseries we thought,” Mr Scavo said.
“The retractable roof design makes it possible for our crops to grow under natural outdoor conditions, while protecting them from wind, cold, heat and rain.”
According to Mr Scavo, the facility will mean 70 per cent less pesticide use, and a 70pc reduction in water use compared to field-grown.
Construction began in April and the tomato plants within are already bearing fruit.
“At this early stage, we’re still toying with ideas of what’s we’ll grow. We’ll be running speciality lines for supermarkets so they’ll be grown under the structure, offering those customers the product for longer, and with better quality,” Mr Scavo said.
The new business is positive sign for Bundaberg as one of Australia's most important horticulture hubs.
Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (BFVG) executive officer Peter Hockings said the new greenhouse demonstrates the level of interest in protected cropping systems, particularly in horticulture production areas.
"BFVG sees protected cropping systems of all levels of infrastructure costs playing a very much part in the future viability of this region - providing many benefits such as risk mitigation, localised environment management for quality control, water use efficiencies, new commodity opportunities, extended/optimised market window opportunities," Mr Hockings said.
"The challenge of course being aligning infrastructure costs in setting up protected cropping systems with the commodity profit margins and overall ROI- that is a decision for individual businesses and/or investors to make on a case-by-case basis."
The facility comes under Young Sang & Co’s farming division, United Wholesalers and Growers (UWG).
The company is aligned with grower partnerships which support the year round supply of fruit and vegetables.
Produce buyers will be able to distinguish the new Brella Fields produce through the Brella Roma and Brella Capsicum boxes.