‘Sustainable growth’ is the key phrase underpinning the Australian Government’s plans to make the nation’s agricultural industry a $100 billion industry by 2030. Yet with widespread and continued drought conditions challenging these ambitious plans, growers are looking to new solutions to ensure more consistent crops and higher yields – and protected cropping is one increasingly attractive proposition.
There’s no doubt that indoor and controlled environments, speed breeding and hydroponic systems are currently driving food production like never before. The Protected Cropping Industry is the fastest growing food producing sector in Australia, valued at around $1.8 billion per annum. As Vertical Farming Systems Executive Director John Leslie explains, that’s no surprise. “Australian agriculture currently has a return on investment of about 3-5%, and that’s not sufficient to attract investment into the sector,” he says. “Vertical farming removes much of the labour cost, which is the most expensive component of farming, so the ROI can be increased to 20% and upwards – and then agriculture does become an attractive investment proposition.”