Despite the “hot weather knocking” them around a bit, their tomatoes have triumphed again. Port Macquarie primary producer, Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberries, has taken out NSW’s top award for tomatoes at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It is the seventh time Ricardoes has been awarded top marks for their tomatoes. Since first entering the competition eight years ago they have only missed out on the top spot once. However, this year they were considering not entering the prestigious competition. “We nearly didn’t enter again this year,” Ricardoes’ Anthony Sarks says. “The extreme hot weather knocked us around a fair bit but we went in it to try to add some points for our overall district aggregate, for Central District.” But they did, and “our Flavorinos, our roma-shaped cherry tomatoes, came out on top again”. Ricardoes produces about three million tomatoes annually and an estimated 25-30 tonnes of strawberries. In some more exciting news, around 180 solar panels have been ground-mounted in a “solar field” to power the producer’s big energy requirements. The system is now online and allows them to monitor and schedule their energy use in real-time thanks to the Sunny Portal application. Anthony says they were motivated to do so because of the uncertainty in the energy market.
“We wanted to take control,” he says.
It is calculated the new set up will wipe out the generation of some 60 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide a year. Mr Sarks explains the solar plant was a natural progression in the farm’s growing green credentials which includes being water-neutral, and using recycled packaging. And, they fuel their boiler – used to warm the greenhouses – in a sustainable way. “We swapped from burning coal to using macadamia nut shells to fire the boiler. They’re a by-product of the local macadamia industry,” he explains.