Blue Farms developed the first certified organic integrated barramundi and vegetable system in Australia back in 2006. They then partnered with their licensee, Green Camel, to establish a commercial scale barramundi and vegetable production system at Cobbitty near Sydney in 2012, selling certified organic produce under contract to Coles.
PCA member Hogan Gleeson and PCA Director Andrew Bodlovich have now commenced developing the first Blue Farm in China. A site has been selected west of Shanghai, with construction of the glasshouse expected to commence early in 2017.
Food production in China is undergoing a massive transformation. This is being driven by two main factors:
Firstly, consumers in China’s emerging middle class, concerned by numerous food safety scares, are demanding high quality, safe, and preferably organic food.
Secondly, the Chinese Government is driving urgent change towards high-technology agriculture to ensure China can continue to feed itself sustainably.
With the average age of Chinese farmers now in their 70’s, a new generation of highly educated young farmers are hungry to learn about Western approaches to Protected Cropping Systems, organic agriculture, and sustainable methods such as integrated fish and vegetable aquaponic technologies.
Ironically, China was the original source of many of today’s systems of high-tech agriculture. ‘Aquaponics’ has been practiced
in China for centuries, with the traditional ‘dyke pond systems’ in which multiple species of fish were grown in deep ponds, with vegetables and tree crops being grown around the ponds utilizing the nutrient-rich fish water. These traditional systems were highly sustainable and biologically sophisticated.
When Hogan and Andrew were originally developing the Blue Farm system, they studied the traditional Chinese dyke ponds and other traditional agricultures, to understand the principles of integrated fish and vegetable production.
Hogan and Andrew are now excited to be introducing Blue Farms into China.
Hogan said “It is going full circle – we learnt so much from the traditional integrated farming systems – it is very satisfying to now be introducing high-tech organic protected cropping systems into China to meet the huge demand there for high quality and safe food.”
Andrew commented that, “the market for this type of food production is ideal in China. Chinese consumers are surprisingly informed and aware about food quality – probably more so than in Australia. We were surprised at the demand here for organic food – consumers are willing to pay top dollar for quality food they can trust.”
According to Hogan, the main limitation to expansion of Blue Farms and other forms of protected cropping in China, is the lack of local experienced greenhouse growers. “There are many low tech greenhouses in China – more than anywhere else in the world, but very few Chinese growers have experience with more
sophisticated European style glasshouses. I have seen many high-tech glasshouse projects in China that have been well-built, but generally they are operating far below their potential due to lack of grower experience with the technology”.
Blue Farms are keen to hear from experienced greenhouse growers interested in joining this exciting challenge in China, pioneering large-scale organic aquaponic farms.