SuniTAFE operates a Horticulture property on Dairtnunk Avenue Cardross, approximately 13.3 kilometres from the Institute’s main campus (16.3 kms from the Mildura CBD).
Originally operated by Irymple High School as a Tech School, the farm’s operations were transferred to Sunraysia College (now SuniTAFE) circa 1981. The Cardross farm totals approximately 31.2 hectares held in two parcels of land, (19.5 ha and 11.72 ha). Currently the site has five classrooms, which are relocatable portables, shedding, and glass/propagation houses.
The farm is renowned for its high quality output. An arrangement exists with the multinational plant nursery, Agromillora, which claims to be the largest nursery in the world and has the largest tissue culture laboratory in Australia.
Agromillora is conducting a trial of dwarf almond and olive plantings in partnership with the SuniTAFE, which is now in its third year and has attracted widespread sector and media interest. Similarly, the Cardoss Farm is often utilised for events like grower forums, equipment and supplier demonstrations, commodity extension activities and other networking. These activities occur largely because the SuniTAFE farm is available, accessible and a ‘neutral’ (non-competitive) space enabling enhanced collaboration.
According to the VSC Regional Skills Demand Profile - Mallee September 2017: “Horticultural industries in the Region are forecast to double in size over the next decade or so. This is reflected in approved or planned expansions and developments over the medium term. Lower Murray Water’s service region for instance has more than 20,000 hectares of development either approved or going through an approval process across commodities such as almonds, olives, citrus, stone fruit, dried fruit and table grapes. The outlook on overseas demand, particularly from South East Asia and China is positive. Broader forces, including the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement and a relatively weaker Australian dollar should also contribute to higher export levels. Forecast growth will be underpinned by a shift to larger corporate farms, with new roles and greater utilisation of modern technology (in contrast to the traditional family-owned model). Hence, the supply of workers skilled for the changed farming business model will be the primary enabler of growth for the sector.”
This is why SuniTAFE is committed to revitalising the Cardross Farm and returning it to a central place in the region, as a source of innovation and highly trained horticultural and agricultural leaders for the future.