Farmer develops home gardening system sold across country
DENIS Matthews is proof there is a farmer in all of us.
That is the mantra of the 51-year-old who moved on to his Coominya property a decade ago to work the land. He had no prior experience as a farmer.
He had always loved growing his own produce at home and one morning the former airforce man woke up and decided to begin a new direction in life.
Now Mr Matthews helps people across Australia grow their own herbs and vegetables with a system he has designed, which he says uses 90 per cent less water than a standard soil garden.
In 2016, he developed The Salad Table, which he first gave to his mum to trial with a single page of instructions.
Within a matter of weeks, it was flourishing so Mr Matthews took his product to farmers' markets and they sold like "hot cakes".
He has now sold about 1000 units across Australia from an online store that is run by himself and wife Karen.
The desire to create a system allowing people to easily access fresh produce at their fingertips grew from his experience in his years as a commercial farmer.
Mr Matthews had a thought while harvesting and loading a truck with herbs and lettuce to take to the wholesale markets.
He knew the fresh products would not make it to consumers' plates for at least another week or more and each time his produce changed, the price went up and the size and quality went down.
The Matthews' Coominya farm supplies farmers markets, restaurants, pubs and wholesalers with produce hydroponically grown.
"People in the shops just aren't getting fresh food," he said.
"They leave my farm gate fresh and crisp and beautiful... then by the time they make their way to the supermarket shelves, the prices are inflated sometimes eight or 10 times what they were at the farm gate."
Mr Matthews said people from all walks of life had benefited from The Salad Table, from those who are too time-poor to maintain a garden to elderly people no longer able to grow vegies.
"It works on the exact same principles as my farm does," Mr Matthews said.
"It keeps me going. It's very personally rewarding for me to be able to pass on my knowledge.
"It shows with the right resources and the right advice, everybody can grow."
In September, Mr Matthews will showcase the system at the Brisbane Eco Expo, which is Australia's largest sustainability expo.
Formula for gardening system took years to perfect
HE made a drastic life change in 2009, swapping the air force for farmland, but not everyone has to follow in the footsteps of Denis Matthews to grow their own fresh produce.
The Salad Table system has been sold across the country and his creation sits in back yards and balconies around Australia.
How exactly does it work?
"It's a fully recirculating system," Mr Matthews said.
"It's got nutrient-rich water in a tank at the end of the table. There's a very small, efficient pump that pumps it to the top end of the table. "It then runs via gravity past the roots of the plants.
"The water not used goes back into the tank and is used over and over and over again. The roots just grow bare (without soil) basically in the nutrient solution."
He said the set-up is easy, as customers are told exactly how to get things started before filling it up with water and turning the pump on.
Mr Matthews said the system used 10 per cent of the water needed by a regular garden.
"That's it," he said. "The plants are getting exactly what they need. It's taken years to get the combination perfect."
He said what started mainly as a way to grow herbs and leafy greens was now being used to produce vegies of all kinds.
"When people say what can you grow, I can say I don't know yet," he laughed.
"I'm still learning."