A greenhouse producing fruit and vegetables aims to supply a local community store in the remote Arnhem Land community of Ramingining.

The project, which will harvest its first produce this week, is a collaboration between the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) and not-for-profit Food Ladder. A similar project involving Food Ladder was set up in the Top End town of Katherine earlier this year.

The greenhouse uses a closed-loop hydroponic system, where plants are grown in a trays of clay pellets, known as hydroton.

ALPA innovation and sustainability projects specialist Lisa Somerville said cucumber, tomatoes, capsicum, rockmelon, spinach, brussels sprouts and cabbage were all growing in the greenhouse.

“It it is great what you can do inside these [greenhouses],” Ms Somerville said. “It makes a really comfortable climate to grow all sorts of different things that would not survive in the bush otherwise.”

Tomatoes are among the crops growing in the Ramingining greenhouse.
Tomatoes are among the crops growing in the Ramingining greenhouse.

All produce from the greenhouse will be sold from the local store.

Ms Somerville said the greenhouse would not produce enough fruit and vegetables to replace produce freighted in from Darwin, but was a “proof of concept size”.

“It is enough to do a little amount into the store, but it is not going to replace what we are freighting in currently,” she said.

“It really is a test size, with the idea that if it works well we can roll it out on a bigger scale in other communities.”

ALPA is considering setting up similar greenhouse projects in other communities in Arnhem Land. However, Ms Somerville said the biggest barrier to building more greenhouses was the up-front capital infrastructure costs.

“It is much cheaper to start a market garden with a shovel and some seeds,” she said.

“But to set something up like this, commercial technology that is proven to be efficient and really produce crops, it takes a lot more planning and investment.

“We will do the test one but looking for other opportunities in our other 25 sites.”

Ms Somerville said the community of Ramingining had embraced the project, with 15 people involved in running the greenhouse.

“Arnhem Land used to be a net exporter of produce into Darwin, and everyone [in the community] wants to return to that and grow their own fruit and vegetables.”

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