Big fig dream is one busy gig

Growing genoa figs with the help of solar power

Top Stories
SWEET: Don Hallit, Dooralong valley, near Wyong, with his beautiful black genoa figs. Don's entire operation, including his 1100-square-metre greenhouse, relies on solar power.

SWEET: Don Hallit, Dooralong valley, near Wyong, with his beautiful black genoa figs. Don's entire operation, including his 1100-square-metre greenhouse, relies on solar power.

Aa

Fig grower Don Hallit says solar makes his greenhouse dream a reality.

Aa

The early morning sunshine filters through the warm and leafy greenhouse as Don Hallit begins his day.

Making his way along the neat lines, Don stops at each and every fig tree, inspecting its broad green leaves and testing the lovely bulbous fruit to see if it is ripe.

This is Don's life, picking figs every day. But for him, the satisfaction is worth every minute.

Don is a fig farmer in the Dooralong valley, near Wyong on the Central Coast.

Set off the road in a quiet clearing on 41 acres, Don grows his marvelous black genoa figs in a huge 1100-square-metre greenhouse, and his entire operation is run by solar.

A drone's eye view of Don Hallit's fig farm in Dooralong Valley, near Wyong on the Central Coast.

Don says he has owned the 'battleaxe' block for 24 years and had used it for running cattle and for family to spend time there. But it was only when his wife Mouna passed away that his plans changed.

"I wanted to do something worthwhile," he said. "I always wanted a greenhouse."

So in 2016 he built the impressive greenhouse, and by February 2017 it was filled with 600 fig trees.

And why figs? "The bloke who built the greenhouse suggested I grow figs," he said. And it is definitely a labour of love. During the busiest growing period, beginning in October, Don picks figs three times a day, inspecting every single tree and testing the fruit. "You have to pick them or they will drop," he said."It is really testing. You have to be on the ball."

FIGS GALORE: Don's greenhouse.

FIGS GALORE: Don's greenhouse.

The fruit turn a lovely dark colour when ripe, but Don has plenty of practice in picking at the right time. "You can tell by feeling them. They are firm but soft," he said.

The ripe figs are placed in trays on the cart Don pulls with him, and these are placed in a cool room ready for sale. The gorgeous figs are sold at Flemington Markets each week. They are called Dmouna Natural Products, which is a mixture of Don and his late wife's names.

And it seems the figs are getting a name for themselves. "Fig jam very popular," he said. "There is a lot of nutrition in figs."

"It is a time consuming job, but it is very enjoyable," he said.

Don used to be a builder, and he said in some ways, growing figs is like building.

"You get to stand back at the end of the day and see what you achieved. There's always something to do, every hour and every day."

Don's solar system is out of this world

For Don Hallit, figs are a big part of everyday life.

And he says having solar power has made it possible.

Don, who grows black genoa figs in the Dooralong valley, near Wyong on the Central Coast, relies on solar power for every aspect of his operation.

He says because of the isolation of his block of land, solar was a much better option than trying to get electricity connected.

And his figs require very specific conditions in his 1100-square-metre greenhouse all year round in order to flourish.

The figs trees are planted in bags and grow along wires, much like a grape vine.

Don said the trees are kept 'around head height' for ease of picking.

ENERGISED: Don Hallit's solar power supplies his entire fig growing operation, from powering the cool room to watering and fertilizing the fig trees in his greenhouse.

ENERGISED: Don Hallit's solar power supplies his entire fig growing operation, from powering the cool room to watering and fertilizing the fig trees in his greenhouse.

"That way you don't have to climb anything," he said.

And everything is solar powered, from the cool room to the irrigation system.

His system is very impressive, with 46 310-watt panels lining the roof of his shed.

The figs are watered every 20 minutes for two minutes.

The irrigation system relies on rain water, which is collected off the roof and deposited into five large tanks.

Don said the ideal temperature in the greenhouse is above 30 degrees, but if it gets hotter, a misting system kicks in to cool the trees.

The trees are also fertilised via an automated system.

Don has recently had his solar system replaced by Simon Duff and his team from Towards Tomorrow Energy.

His system is a 14.26 kilowatt solar array off-grid system, which was tailor designed by Simon to suit Don's specific needs.

During the day, the pumping and irrigation loads are supplied directly from the solar array.

While at night, the power is provided by the 40 kilowatt-hour battery storage system.

Black genoa figs

Black genoa figs

Another advantage of his system is he can remotely monitor it from anywhere in the world, so it alerts him via text if there is a problem.

Don said the solar power has made it possible for him to grow his figs in a remote area.

"Now with Simon's work, it is amazing. What a difference that man makes," he said.

"The solar is amazing. I wouldn't be able to afford the power."

  • Visit Dmouna farm fresh genoa figs on Facebook.
Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by