Protected Cropping Australia (PCA) is the peak industry body representing commercial hydroponic and greenhouse growers Australia wide. PCA members also include equipment and installation suppliers, specialist consultants and advisors, researchers and educators.
Hydroponics is the production of crops in isolation from the soil, either with or without a medium, with their total water and nutrient requirements supplied by the system. Production takes place either in a greenhouse or outdoors and systems can recirculate or allow nutrients to “free drain” for reuse on other crops (eg. trees, pasture improvement, etc). The industry is highly efficient in its use of inputs including water, fertilisers, labour, land and energy.
Hydroponics and greenhouse technology has emerged as a commercial alternative to soil-based production. Significant crops include tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicum, lettuce, strawberries, Mediterranean and Asian herbs, Asian greens, Asiatic and Oriental lilies and cut flowers such as roses, gerberas, carnations, lisianthus and chrysanthemums.
Successful commercial production is undertaken by families producing for boutique markets, families as part of a larger growing and marketing cooperative and by corporates with investors who are not active in day-to-day management. The industry is capital intensive and capital costs are anywhere between $100 and $300 plus per square metre, depending on the sophistication of the greenhouse and the level of equipment being included. Viable production units are a minimum of 1,500 square metres.
Commercial success is linked to:
- Establishment of the venture in a realistic economic framework;
- Attention to market requirements before production commences;
- Realistic expectation of price, yield and labour requirements; and
- Experience in horticultural production prior to entry into hydroponics.