Harvest of 7,500 kg of strawberries on hybrid vertical farm on isolated island

“We had never grown strawberries before, so it was a little nerve-wracking. But we knew they were doing well in the United States, so we wanted to make sure we could also grow a product that was good enough to hit the market. ” market, “says Roger Morris, founder of Philip Island Strawberries (Australia).

Initially, the company started with 15 towers, to test and analyze whether this model was viable and scalable. It quickly became apparent that there was great potential, so the family raised efforts and began to focus on ‘vertical farming in the open air’.

Roger and Faye Morris

Philip Island Strawberries have an area of ​​1 hectare, where they grow 7,500 strawberry plants vertically. In addition to the fruit, there are also 100 tomato plants and other vegetables such as peppers and cucumbers. The strawberries are sold per. 250 g for 5 AUD or per 500 g for 9 AUD.

Hard-worked soil made usable
Phillip Island has only 11,000 inhabitants and limited infrastructure. Small penguins live in protected national parks on large parts of the island. “We are happy that we can grow here, because we are dealing with strong winds and harsh natural elements. We now know that land that was previously considered unsuitable for agriculture and horticulture can now be used with other cultivation methods, such as the one we have. use. use it now, “says Roger.

From the top of the yard

This year, the company harvests 1 kg per plant per season, which runs from November to mid-April. That means they are harvesting 7,500kg of strawberries this season. Roger says they can increase that amount by building greenhouses to extend the season, but they are not interested in doing so. “We want to grow outdoors using the natural elements, as we and our customers agree that strawberries taste better when grown outdoors.”

Tourist attraction
The strawberry grower also provides a fun day out for both tourists and locals. “We like to welcome people here so they can taste the organic strawberries themselves. We do not like that they taste and go without buying anything. We think it is more important that they experience what it is like here,” says Roger.

Wookie, the family’s 13-year-old German Shepherd dog is known by everyone and loves all the attention

However, there are also factors that play a role in outdoor cultivation, such as damage and partial loss of crops. Ultimately, the taste of the product is the most important thing for Phillip Island Strawberries. “It does not have to be an image that is always perfect for us.”

Fortunately, Roger’s wife Faye loves to cook, so the solution for damaged strawberries is available. Her homemade jams are now a local delicacy that can be purchased at the farm shop and one of their main products.

Close up of the strawberries

Stay local, do not grow
Right now, the family has no plans to scale their business further to further increase sales and add retailers to their customer base. “We love the contact with the local community and like that visitors can pick up their fruit directly from us.”

Phillip Island Strawberries wants to grow products for restaurants, ice cream parlors and other customers so they have little to do with local businesses in the supply chain. Rogers daughter Jess is soon moving her family to the island so she can become more active in the business and expand the business network.

A nice view of Phillips Island, with the farm at the bottom right

Available to ‘less flexible’ employees
The vertical factor has become more important than the cultivation of strawberries. Roger explains that many crops can be grown in vertical towers and that they take up much less space and use water.

In addition, Roger says he is very fond of the vertical cultivation towers because it gives hope to future growers. “Through that kind of tower, I, a person with a physical disability, can still grow. It’s a much friendlier way for both the environment and our body than cultivating in the open country.”

Roger at work in the company

Therefore, they see great benefits associated with this kind of cultivation. Phillip Island Strawberries has therefore provided various systems for people with disabilities so that they can still stay engaged in cultivation. This has led to a demand for cultivation towers from Victoria, which has also enabled the company to develop as a supplier. “In a way, strawberry growing is a representation of the possibilities of the towers.”

Roger is in his early 60s so he can still grow strawberries and enjoy his job. He sees no future in growing strawberries in the traditional way. “At least not in Australia. It’s too expensive considering the price of fertilizer and water consumption. So it’s the perfect solution, especially given the positive results.”

For more information:
Roger Morris, founder
Phillips Island strawberries

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