A $100 million hydroponic cucumber farm is set to create 350 ongoing jobs in the gold mining town of Stawell, in western Victoria.
Northern Grampians Shire Council today announced a Sydney-based company’s plans to build a 45 hectare glass house just east of the township.
Mayor Murray Emerson said the project would be built in phases, over four years.
“Construction will begin in June this year,” he said.
“It will take around 12 months to put the infrastructure in place, and on the shortest day of 2017 they will begin planting.
“It’s gigantic for our community and to say we’re excited is an understatement.”
“We’ve done a lot of research with the people in the near vicinity and we haven’t found anybody yet that’s not happy with the development.”
Murray Emerson, Northern Grampians Shire Mayor
Cr Emerson said the developer’s name was ‘Nectar Farms Pty Ltd’, which was registered in Australia on January 12 this year, but details of the company remain a mystery.
“They have experience in hydroponics businesses.
“What they do away from our community, I’m not sure.”
Although the set up will be suitable for other vegetables, Cr Emerson said cucumbers would be the focus.
“Every night there will be a couple of B-double trucks full of cucumbers, once they get them up and growing, heading off to Melbourne,” he said.
At this stage no taxpayer dollars have been allocated to the development, but Cr Emerson said the Victorian Government was considering a request.
“It’s being totally financed by the Nectare Farms company,” he said.
“We’ve had some discussions with the State Government about putting in some funding and I think they would be foolish if they didn’t.
“People will be looking to the State Government to support 350 jobs.”
Water ‘not a problem’: Northern Grampians Shire Mayor
Farmers across western Victoria have struggled through two years of severe rainfall deficiencies, but Cr Emerson said water would not be an issue for the cucumber operation.
“We have the Wimmera Mallee pipeline actually in the paddock, right where it’s being built,” he said.
“They’ll actually recycle some of that water back into their system, which will take the pressure off the amount of water they’ve got to purchase.”
Communities that rely on the Wimmera Mallee pipeline, and depleted reservoirs that supply it, are already debating about where water should be directed.
Cr Emerson said the cucumber operation would not need a large allocation.
“I can’t tell you what the allocation is at the moment, we’ve only just been guaranteed by Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water that water will be made available to them,” he said.
“I understand they don’t need a lot of water, but they do need some.”
Cucumber company to buy up houses, farm blocks
Western Victoria’s Wimmera region might be renowned for its grain, sheep and cattle industries but, other than in family vegetable gardens, cucumbers have not been a feature.
Stawell retains an active gold mining industry and the community is divided over a company’s proposal to build two open-cut mines on Big Hill, overlooking the town.
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The cucumber farm will be built just a few kilometres from existing mining operations, on and adjacent to private farm lifestyle blocks.
Nectar Farms has bought some farmers out and Cr Emerson said more sales would be needed over the next four years but he is not expecting community opposition.
“We’ve done a lot of research with the people in the near vicinity and we haven’t found anybody yet that’s not happy with the development,” he said.
“[Noise pollution and truck traffic] has been discussed by the company with the people who will be in the vicinity; we don’t believe that there will be any problem with it at all.”