In mid-September a week-long masterclass in protected cropping was run by Graeme Smith Consulting (GSC) and hosted by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) at the Gatton Smart Farm.


The course was specifically designed to give a high level of technical and management skill in protected cropping to growers, suppliers, agronomists, researchers and new entrants to the industry. Over the course of four and half days Graeme presented key topics of media, plant physiology and health, nutrient and environmental management, production systems and the logistics of establishing or transitioning to protected cropping in different regions. The immersive learning experience comprised classroom-style training combined with interactive practical sessions and a commercial greenhouse tour.


Heidi Wiggenhauser from the DAF Protected Cropping team shared her experiences of growing specialty melons at DAF’s retractable roof research greenhouse in Ayr. Participants also had the opportunity to hear from invited speakers on soilless media (Melanie Power, Ecomix) as well as biological control from Dan Papacek (Bugs for Bugs) and Adam Billsborough (Biological Services).


Growers from Tasmania and from Queensland’s Granite Belt, Lockyer Valley, Moreton and Sunshine Coast regions comprised 70% of the nineteen course participants. Input and service providers were also represented citing motivation to gain better understanding of their protected cropping clients’ needs. This training event follows on from a DAF-led training course that was run at Gatton in September 2022 and demonstrates the continuing high demand for training in protected cropping for the horticulture industry; both improving knowledge and supporting the needs of existing members as well as new entrants.  Col Douglas from the DAF protected cropping team assisted in organisation of the event and conducted surveys before and four months after the course to gauge participants’ feedback and implementation of learnings in their businesses.


Discussions held during the breaks and a barbecue with invited local industry allowed participants to share their cropping experiences and develop the networks vital in supporting the adoption of protected cropping.


The organisers wish to thank Minsoo Choe of Allegro Farms who again hosted course participants to learn about the tools and technologies he relies on to produce premium quality tomatoes in his high-tech glasshouse.


DAF co-invests in the support of protected cropping research as part of the project Driving ag-tech adoption across Australia (AS20007) funded by the Hort Frontiers Advanced Production Systems Fund, part of the Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative developed by Horticulture Innovation Australia.



This collaboration with industry stakeholders, sharing of research outcomes and future training events are a key part in DAF’s ongoing support of protected cropping adoption in Australia.  DAF recently led the national effort to develop the Australian Protected Cropping Strategy 2021-2030. The Strategy identifies a need for increased capacity building activities to support adoption of updated technologies.  The Strategy can be accessed in the Protected Cropping Australia website:


Contact for additional information. Elio Jovicich, Program Leader – Protected Cropping, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), email: