On this page you can find a brief overview of the most common crops grown
in commercial hydroponic systems throughout Australia. It is by no means
an exhaustive list of these crops, and we have included it only to serve
as a reference point for prospective growers. If the crop you are thinking
about growing is not listed, then please contact
us, and we will try to fill in the gaps for you.
of the most popular crops grown in hydroponics today, tomatoes are a good
option for hydroponic growers due to the demand for the fruit throughout
Australia (and the world!). It must be noted however, that growing tomatoes
is not for everyone due the relatively high labour input required between
crops, and the need to pick quite large numbers on a regular basis. Care
should therefore be taken before establishing a growing system based around
this crop, and we would always recommend spending some time on an existing
farm to get a feel for the amount of input required before committing
to a commercial hydroponic tomato system.
There are currently a variety of different methods being used in the hydroponic
production of tomatoes of which the most common are NFT and Drip Irrigation.
NFT will provide the greatest yield at the least cost, but this has not
been taken on by all growers yet for variety of different reasons (mostly
related to the saying If its not broke, dont fix it).
But this is starting to change, and more and more growers are changing
over to NFT.
A major consideration when thinking about setting up a hydroponic tomato
farm is the initial cost involved. Because tomatoes are a vine crop and
require support from above, you will need a hothouse that can support
their weight. There are of course plenty of companies out there that can
sell you one of these structures, but it is a major expense, and may place
a strain on your budget. However, if you have a good market for tomatoes,
this initial cost can be quickly recovered.
Tomatoes also require pollination to set their fruit, as well as a environmental
management system to keep require as the plants like them for optimum
growth. So be prepared for quite a sharp initial learning curve if you
make the final decision to move into this field of commercial hydroponic
farming, and always remember, you get out what you put in.
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Although capsicum and tomatoes are similar in their method of production,
there are some significant differences. For a start, nearly all capsicum
are currently grown in medium based systems as opposed to NFT. This system
utilizes the batch feeding technique, which allows for climatic
conditions to dictate the feeding frequency and volume, i.e when it is
hot, you feed more at more regular intervals than when it is cold, to
allow for increased uptake by the plants. It is by all accounts a tried
and tested method of growing capsicum with many years of proven results,
and should be carefully considered by all growers looking at starting
a capsicum farm.
we are in some ways a pro NFT hydroponic consultancy, and
would recommend that all new growers also have a good look at the nutrient
film technique method before committing to any commercial growing system.
We know that in a well designed NFT channel, results equal to drip feeding
media based systems are easily obtainable, with a marked decrease in labor
costs. Setup costs are much the same, with the only difference being how
long the plant is left on the system. In a media based system plants will
tend be grown as perennials and will produce many sets of fruits throughout
the year, but will require a fair amount of attention to ward of pests
and long term nutrient imbalances. In NFT plants tend to be grown as annuals,
and therefore only produce fruit for a limited period of time, but do
not tend to suffer from many of the problems associated with the perennials
due to the ability to remove any under productive or diseased plants after
a much shorter period of time. With this type of crop, if the worst happens
it is only a minor setback, and can usually be incorporated into a slightly
revised planting schedule.
A couple of other points to note with capsicum are that as with other
vine crops, capsicum require a hothouse or structure that can support
the weight of the plant from above, and that you must always have a very
good look at the local market to determine whether or not your business
has the potential to be a success in its early stages before going ahead
with your venture. With capsicum, you are very dependent on your market
to make your business successful, with a relatively small margin for error
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are in many respects similar to tomatoes and capsicum in their method
of production, with the most notable difference being their vulnerability
to cold temperatures. The air temperature in the hothouse cannot be allowed
to dip below 70 deg F without stress occurring to the plant, and the nutrient
solution will normally have to heated as well. This may increase energy
costs significantly in colder regions, but could also be an advantage
to prospective growers in hotter climates.
Again, as with tomatoes and capsicum, cucumbers can be grown as either
a short term crop, or as a long term crop. Short term NFT crops offer
a considerable saving on labour costs, and as such are being used more
and more as the production method of choice for cucumbers. Other methods
of cucumber include drip irrigation culture into mediums such as perlite
and rockwool, and the Deep Flow Technique.
Hothouse structures must be capable of supporting vine crops weight, which
coupled with the need to keep cucumbers over a certain temperature and
the potential energy costs associated with this, mean that careful investigation
of your market is essential before embarking on a cucumber growing venture.
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The markets in Australia generally require two types of product, the first
of which is the fresh cut product. This type of product can
be grown in either NFT or medium based systems, as the leaves of the herbs
are cut away from the roots for processing into sealed bags or containers.
second type of product commonly seen on the Australian market today is
living plant herbs. Here the plant is grown in NFT and harvested
whole with the root system intact. The herbs are then placed into a plastic
bag with a small amount of water or nutrient, and sold as a single unit.
This method provides the retailer with a significant increase in shelf
life thus reducing the wastage experienced with the fresh cut herbs.
Commonly grown herbs in NFT are basil and coriander, and they seem to
be particularly suited to this method of production. Herbs such as thyme,
marjoram and sage are often grown in a medium based system, but can be
grown just as well in NFT.
Most herbs can be grown in a variety of conditions and due to their relatively
short lifespan, can be grown with a good degree of success in most climates.
They also grow very well on the same system as lettuce, allowing a wider
range of products to be marketed.
Growing herbs in NFT is one of the least physically demanding types of
commercial hydroponic production, and within reason, can usually be operated
by a husband and wife team.
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There are many different types of lettuce grown today which include all
the different types of lettuce normally sold in supermarkets throughout
Australia and NZ. The method of growing is nearly always NFT, which as
with herbs, allows for the finished plants to be sold as either fresh
cut or living plant.
the market for lettuce in the bigger cities may be difficult to access,
there are opportunities in regional areas for smaller systems of say 1,000
to 1,500 square meters to meet the demand for local fresh
produce. As with all commercial systems we can not over emphasize the
importance of establishing a potential market first. Whether you develop
a simple or high tech commercial system, the exercise is pointless
if you have nowhere to sell your produce.
Romain or cos lettuce are currently very popular amongst commercial hydroponic
growers. Varieties include; Red Romaine (tolerant to both heat and cold),
Paris White, Parris Island, Cos Verdi, Toledo, Marvel, Diamond Gem, and
Little Gem to name a few.
Growing time for lettuce can be anywhere between 60 and 80 days, and these
plants can often be grown outdoors with relative ease in hotter climates.
This of course can save quite a lot money on the initial outlay for a
commercial farm, and is one of the reasons that lettuce is so popular
with many commercial hydroponic growers. Another reason is the ability
to grow herbs such as basil and coriander alongside lettuce to increase
the range of produce provided by the grower.
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There are currently many different types of ornamental flowers under hydroponic
production today, with some of the most common being gerberas, carnations,
lisianthus, roses and chrysanthemums.
main difference between ornamental crops and food crops (apart from the
obvious), is the level of environmental control needed to achieve optimum
growth. The parameters for ornamental production are very rigid to say
the least, and setup costs can be daunting.
Another problem being faced by hydroponic ornamental growers is competition
from abroad in addition to the down turn in the tourism and hospitality
industry. Careful consideration must be given prior to venturing into
the commercial flower industry, where a confirmed market is essential.
Also the threat of cheap ornamental imports from across the globe can
mean that a once solid and reliable outlet for your produce can suddenly
be faced with the option of reducing there costs considerably, and few
retail sellers will be able to say no this sort of incentive. After all,
if they dont take the flowers at a cheaper price then the shop next
door probably will, and they will lose business to them. With this in
mind careful market research is an absolute must for this type of start
up, and the worst case scenario must be your starting point.
Given the complexities in growing commercial ornamentals, a good alternative
could be to learn the ropes on a more forgiving hydroponic
system such as herbs or lettuce, as there always tend to be a good market
in most regions. As your knowledge and capability increase it may be possible
to approach local ornamental retailers with some sample produce to see
if they are interested. In this way you have something to show the retailer
when you do your market research, in addition to having a good idea of
your production costs (and therefore your break even price), and by then
you should know whether or not ornamental growing is for you.
We dont mean to sound negative on this subject, but it is no secret
that at the moment current market conditions in Australia for ornamental
plants are a bit volatile, and new start ups may experience significant
difficulties in gaining a foothold into the market place. That said, if
you have a good market, we will of course happily consult on ornamental
flower production for you. Other crops include:-
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Other crops include :-
Tomatoes (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Capsicum (Capsicum annum)
Cucumber (Cucumis sativa)
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Mint (Mentha app.)
Tarragon (Artemisia dranunculus)
Marjoram (Maiorana hortensis)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)
Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Crisphead (Lactuca sativa var. capitata)
Butterhead (Lactuca sativa var. capitatis)
Vietnamese (Lactuca sativa var. crispa)
Romaine/Cos (Lactuca sativa var. longifolia)
Amaranth (Amaranthus tricolour)
Buffalo Spinach (Enydra fluctuans)
Chinese Flowering Cabbage (Brassica rapa var. parachinensis)
Chinese Celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce)
Hot Mint (Poligonum minus)
Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus)
Lizards Tail (Hottuynia cordata)
Mustard Green (Brassica juncea)
Pak Choi (Brassica rapa var. chinensis)
Pennywort (Centella asiatica)
Perilla (Perilla frutescens)
Thai Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Spearmint (Mentha viridis)
Turmeric (Cucurma domestica)
Water Convolvulus (Ipomea aquatica)
Water Parsley (Oenanthe javanica)
Watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-acquaticum)
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)
Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)
Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata)
Rocket (Brassica rapa . var. chinensis)
Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala)
Aubergine (Solanum melongena var. esculentum)
Carrots (Daucus carota)
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)
Okra (Hibiscus esculentus)
Potato (Solanum tuberosums)
Radish (Raphanus sativus)
Onion (Allium cepa)
Carrot (Daucus carota)
Spring Onion (Allium fistulosum)
Root Ginger (Zingiber Officionale)
Turmeric (Cucurma domestica)
Curry Leaves (Murraya koenigii)
Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus)
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