New high-tech facility to help meet Australia’s growing demand for fresh food

National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre

Glasshouse photo gallery: Click on the photo to view the gallery

Australia’s first National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre launched today thanks to a multi-million dollar joint initiative between Hort Innovation and Western Sydney University. The Centre will produce the next generation of horticulture experts, and help the nation’s fresh vegetable growers tap into the very best research and the latest practices in protected cropping.

Officially opened today by Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, The Hon Anne Ruston, with Minister for Western Sydney, The Hon Stuart Ayres, the centrepiece of the new Centre is a $7 million Glasshouse at the University’s Hawkesbury campus, used for industry-driven research, education and training.

Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barney Glover, said the University has a long history in agriculture and horticulture research and education at the Hawkesbury campus, dating back to 1891.

“The Hawkesbury campus is located on the peri-urban fringe of Sydney – perfectly placed for conducting research and education to help drive Australia’s future horticulture productivity,” said Professor Glover.

“Until now, nothing like this has been developed locally to specifically suit Australia’s harsh climate. This essential piece of scientific infrastructure for Australia is only possible through our partnership with Hort Innovation. The Glasshouse and National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre cement the University’s reputation as a national leader in horticulture research and education, and continues our proud history of agriculture research and teaching at Hawkesbury.”

The striking 1,728 m2 Glasshouse comprises eight temperature-controlled research bays and one large-scale teaching bay, and uses cutting-edge climate control technology. Features include diffuse glass and smart glass coatings that adjust the spectrum, direction and intensity of light, helping researchers to produce the highest possible commercial-yields with minimal energy, labour, nutrients and water inputs.

Hort Innovation chief executive John Lloyd said the combination of an ageing horticultural industry in Australia with a fast-moving technological landscape and a rising global demand for food means the National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre has never been more critical.

“The expected findings that will come out of this Centre are exciting. Researchers are working to create the optimum environment to drive maximum harvest windows and overall yield for a variety of vegetables, then share this information with Australia’s growers,” he said.

“This facility will also attract new entrants to the horticulture industry by showcasing some of the most advanced technology currently available. Current and future Western Sydney University students will have the opportunity to be at the forefront of this exciting time in Australian food production history.”

Protected Cropping Australia deputy chair Mark Massey said it was fantastic to see the ambitious project come to fruition.

“Protected cropping is a fast-growing industry because it offers the potential to grow more produce in an environment where pests and external weather influences can largely be controlled,” he said.

“Setting up a glasshouse, however, is an investment, so knowing what the ideal temperature, water, nutrient and light levels are for different types of vegetables will certainly provide a great benefit to the horticultural industry.”


1 November 2017

Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer