Scientists at the newly opened Tatura SmartFarm have found that solar panels could be used to protect produce from extreme heat waves, expanding their on-farm uses.

Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Mary-Anne Thomas, was in the Goulburn Valley to officially open the SmartFarm and announce the Horticulture Solar Energy program, which will examine the impacts of solar energy generation infrastructure and the sun protection it provides fruit trees.

Solar panels are being installed above the pear orchard as part of the Program, which has been funded through the Victorian Government’s $30 million Agriculture Energy Investment Plan.

“The Tatura SmartFarm is an important way for Victorian scientists to develop practical solutions to some of agriculture’s biggest problems, and to grow our export markets,” Ms Thomas said.

“Farmers and producers experience the impacts of climate change firsthand – it’s vital that we help them adapt so they can continue to get our world-class produce to markets across Australia and the world.”

The SmartFarm is backed by the Victorian Government’s $5 million Smarter, Safer Farms initiative, and is Australia’s leading horticulture SmartFarm, undertaking research and innovative ideas to deliver high-quality fruit from orchard to export market.

At the SmartFarm, Agriculture Victoria scientists and technicians develop and demonstrate new applications of agricultural technology to achieve increases in marketable yield, product value and production efficiency in pears, apples, stonefruit and almonds.

The SmartFarm is also home to the world’s first sundial orchard – a multi-directional experimental orchard covered in sensors and includes orchard design and training systems for stonefruit and pomefruit. The Sundial orchard is helping researchers to understand how orchard design impacts production efficiencies, labour efficiencies, resilience to extreme climatic events, and the yield and quality of fruit.

The Victorian Government is backing the adoption of new, effective and fit-for-purpose technology to grow and protect the state’s agriculture industries as a key commitment of the $115 million Agriculture Strategy which includes the Agriculture Energy Investment Plan and $15 million for the AgTech Regional Innovation Network.

Member for Northern Victoria, Mark Gepp, said, “The Tatura SmartFarm is doing ground-breaking research that’ll help farmers across Australia – I’m really proud that this exciting work has started right here in Northern Victoria.”

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