Horticulture

Overview

The Gascoyne region has a well established and diverse horticulture industry. The industry benefits from good soil types, sub-tropical climate, seasonal advantage, minimal pests and diseases, the use of micro-irrigation technology and industry-driven development.

Produce is predominantly grown in the Carnarvon Horticulture District located on the fertile soils of the Gascoyne River delta. Around 1500 hectares of land is currently under cultivation producing a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Major crops include bananas, table grapes, tomatoes, capsicums, cucurbits, avocados and mangoes. A Seasonal Produce Calendar is available from the Shire of Carnarvon.

Innovations such as shade cropping, fertigation techniques and open hydroponics, along with National water market reform and State Government investment in research and development have increased the volume and value of product in the Carnarvon Horticulture District.

Horticulture is also being developed as an alternative industry for pastoral properties in the region. A number of pastoral leasees have diversified and produced melon, table grapes, citrus and asparagus on their land.

Sweeter Banana Plantation
Carnarvon banana plantation, image courtesy of Sweeter Banana/Simply Designed

Land

Current production in the Carnarvon Horticulture District is carried out intensively on small landholdings.

There are 180 plantations, with the majority of plantation sizes ranging between 2-40 hectares. The majority of this land is composed of good river system soils. These soils range from a light textured red earthy sand to a medium textured red earthy loam.

300ha of prima horticultural land was released in Mid 2021 in stage two of the the Gascoyne Food Bowl initiative.

Water

Current water supply to the Carnarvon Horticulture District is from aquifers beneath or adjacent to the Gascoyne River. The Gascoyne River is an ephemeral river that flows when high rainfall occurs inland at the headwaters. The Gascoyne River flows most years, and flows are the main source of recharge to the underground water stores. There are however extended periods of time when there is ‘no-flow’ but if aquifers are managed carefully water supplies can be maintained for up to four years without flow.

Horticulturalists on the river banks have ground water licences allowing them to take water to irrigate their properties by using private bores in the river bed. Scheme water is also available to growers which is supplied from areas upstream of Carnarvon. Having two supplies makes water supplies very reliable for growers. On average about 12 GL* of water is abstracted per year which services approximately 1200 ha of farmed area.

The region’s horticulturists use micro-irrigation technology to produce large quantities of product efficiently. Carnarvon produces about $6 to $7 million of crop per GL compared to the national average of $1 to $2 million per GL.

Water exploration is proving up additional water availability in order to make the industry drought proof.

Climate

The Gascoyne climate is semi-arid and sub-tropical making it ideal for the production of tropical and sub-tropical fruit, as well as winter vegetables. There is an absence of frost in the winter months due to relatively high minimum temperatures. Annual rainfall is low (averaging around 200mm) and rainfall events are sporadic and can occur both in the summer and winter months.

Competitive advantage

The major vegetable growing season occurs in the southern hemisphere winter months of June to September. This allows the Carnarvon Horticulture District to supply the Perth and interstate market with counter-season produce. The Carnarvon Horticulture District also has potential to supply counter-seasonal produce to markets in Asia and Europe from September to May.

A further advantage occurs at the beginning of the domestic summer fruit season when a window of opportunity exists for early ripening varieties to capture the market.

The isolation of the Carnarvon Horticulture District provides a unique opportunity to control pests and diseases and remain free from many serious pests. This assists in the growth of high quality produce with reduced crop damage and losses. The Commission is currently assisting to find an Industry led Biosecurity solution.

Documents

Feasibility Study for Multi-Food Processing Plant

Gascoyne Horticulture Investment Profile

Carnarvon Pilot Horticultural Processing Facility Concept Design

Collaborative Product Development Research Initiative for Gascoyne Primary Produce By Product

Gascoyne Horticulture Pilot Processing Prefeasibility Report

Value-adding to Carnarvon Horticultural Produce: Ideation, Innovation, Market: Final Report