US$93M Aussie tomato greenhouse to enter full production
An expansion of d'VineRipe's 27-hectare glasshouse facility in South Australia is set to make it the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, with annual production of 15,000 metric tons (MT) worth of truss tomatoes expected.
General Manager Jon Jones said the AUD$25 million (US$25.9 million) Stage 3 expansion increased the surface area by 10 hectares and represented several improvements on water management systems.
The AUD$90 million glasshouse itself is expected to enter full production in December, as one of the few Southern Hemisphere facilities with pad and fan climate control technology.
"While we’ve used similar types of building materials and construction techniques across all three stages, the most significant change to water management has been driven by our location in South Australia (being the driest state in Australia) and our philosophy based on sustainability and continuous improvement," Jones said in a release.
"Previously, pure condensated water produced as a result of heating the glasshouse was diverted to ponds where it evaporated. During Stage 3 construction, we implemented new water harvesting systems to collect and reuse that water.
"We are now capturing 10,000-15,000 litres of extra water a day to reuse on the crop."
He highlighted the Stage 3 expansion also included a different type of glass that allowed more useful light to filter to the plants.
"We have also increased row lengths to 135 metres in Stage 3 to maximise yield and crop management efficiency based on key learnings from Stages 1 and 2."
The expansion takes the total number of automated guided vehicles on the project to 100, which are sensor-operated and travel in front of harvesting staff, delivering picked tomatoes from the glasshouse floor to the packing facility.
"With all the technology we have at our fingertips, all crop work is carried out by hand, not machines – the tomatoes are still pollinated and picked by hand.
"The computer systems we have such as the AGVs ensure full traceability so we can help improve our worker time management and introduce further efficiencies."
The facility's three-stage expansion was built by van der Hoeven greenhousebuilders of Holland.