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Nectar Farms plans $130 million hydroponic tomato business in Central Tablelands

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Nectar Farms has plans to grow hydroponic tomatoes and other vegetables on the 56-hectare block near the Central Tablelands town, and if it goes ahead, the project could change the future of the Australian hydroponic vegetable industry.

Director Miles Sterrick said the $130 million project was in its early stages, but he had high hopes for the future.

This is Nectar Farm's first venture into building its own hydroponic vegetable business, but the company is also in the process of beginning another project in Stawell in Victoria.

Mr Sterrick said the company has assembled "the world's best" for the project, even attracting experts such as Willem Nat from Holland, who is an expert in designing and building glasshouses across the world.

If plans go ahead, Nectar Farms will own one third of Australia's industrial scale glasshouses. 

The process of choosing locations for these two projects was extremely scientific, according to Mr Sterrick.

He said the company used climate assessment maps, overlaid with maps of highways, major distribution centres and infrastructure in order to find ideal locations.

“When we did this, Oberon went right to the top of the list,” he said.

Mr Sterrick said the Central Tablelands town was ideal due to its light and humidity, as well as its proximity to Sydney.

Mr Sterrick said the aim for the project was to be able to pick produce and have it on the supermarket shelves within a day or two.

“It’s about turning the supply chain on its head,” he said. “Shelf life is very important.”

The region’s cooler temperatures also played a part.

“You want it to get cool at night, and it is much cheaper to warm than to cool.”

Mr Sterrick said the company had a development application (DA) before Oberon Council at the moment, and had carried out consultation meetings with the community.

He expects the DA will be approved by the end of June this year, and that construction will begin straight away.

The first stage of the project will see 10 hectares of glasshouses and packing sheds erected, which will take around 10 to 12 months to complete.

In June next year around 220,000 tomato seedlings will be planted, and harvesting could begin as early as three to six weeks later.

The entire project will take place in three stages over three years, with 880,000 seedlings planted, which may also include cucumber, eggplant and capsicum in addition to the tomatoes.

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