Heathcote resident applies for planning permission for low density Pomegranate farm

Surrounded by vines in an internationally-acclaimed grape-growing region, Mark Brown has opted for a slightly larger spherical variety.

Pomegranates – a fruit with origins in Persia – are the commercial focus of the Heathcote resident.

Armed with some of the most fertile soil in Victoria, Mr Brown wanted to do things differently. 

After doing some horticultural training online, the hardy drought and frost-proof fruit seemed the most logical option for Mr Brown.

Kangaroos won't eat it (pomegranate), birds can't get into it because the skin is too thick and the plants only require watering for the first three years

Mark Brown

“Kangaroos won't eat it (pomegranate), birds can't get into it because the skin is too thick and the plants only require watering for the first three years,” he said.

Plans for the 300-tree farm are with the City of Greater Bendigo and, if successful, Mr Brown will aim to plant the trees, currently being grown in Adelaide, by August 2018.

The plan is unique to central Victoria, with larger farms located further afield in Shepparton.

It could take five years for the farm to hit peak production, from which the fruit would be harvested and sent to Melbourne wholesale markets, in addition to a number of local restaurants and farmers markets, Mr Brown said.

Long-term plans are to work with a distiller to create a vodka, and eventually gin, out of the pomegranates.

Mr Brown deduced that the rich Heathcote soil combined with the low-labour requirements for a 300-tree farm, would prove profitable enough.

Around 80 per cent of pomegranates were imported from the US or India, he said, suggesting there was an opportunity for farmers to create a local market.

Each tree would conservatively yield 70 fruits, which will be harvested in the Autumn. 

Pomegranate arils – the small red seed pod inside the fruit – have a important commercial value to the grower, given their varied uses.