A STATE-of-the-art automated growing facility on the Darling Downs has sown its first vegetable seedlings.
Boomaroo Nurseries has started sowing its first vegetable seedlings at their new Southbrook nursery site in Queensland.
Modelled off a Dutch tulip facility, the hi-tech facility is expected to produce 100 million seedlings in its first two years, to later reach a 300 million a year capacity.
It has 28,000 square metres of automated growing area, including 14,000 square metres under greenhouse.
The company says the new nursery site's automated features will make it the most advanced of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
Boomaroo Nurseries' facility in Lara, Victoria is semi-automated but some of the technology being used at Southbrook will be applied there in future as well.
Boomaroo Nurseries Queensland business manager, David Parker, said the first round of 5600 seedlings sown recently would be ready to go to growers in regions including the Wide Bay, Lockyer Valley and Stanthorpe in six weeks' time.
"It's really been grower demand that drove this," he said.
"We had growers contacting us in Lara looking for quality seedlings that they were seeing in areas like Werribee.
"We have Victorian growers that have farms in Queensland that were also contacting us."
Mr Parker said the company travelled to the Netherlands to learn about the technology used in an automated tulip facility and had adapted that to apply to the vegetable industry.
"We're using Dutch technology and Italian technology with Australian know-how and the coding is Australian as well," he said.
The no-touch system at Southbrook includes germination chambers, automated loading benches, fibre optics and tailor-made software and machinery.
Future expansion plans for the company include bringing its Greenlife potted plant business into Queensland.
Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprises Food Leaders Australia general manager, Bruce McConnel, said the facility presented exciting opportunities for the region.
"It's making Queensland a globally relevant place to come and learn about robotics in agriculture," he said.
"They're going to produce 100 million seedlings and they'll do that on 25 megalitres of water.
"The jobs there are digitally focused and they mean we can attract people out of metropolitan areas into agriculture in ways we haven't before."
- This story first appeared on the Qld Country Life.