The capital investment to set up a melon production unit, including machinery and equipment, is likely to be more than $150,000. This assumes all equipment is purchased new. Second-hand prices are about half the new prices.
Machinery and equipment
The essential and optional machinery and equipment needed for rockmelon or honeydew production is shown in Table 1. Access to a coldroom during harvest is essential.
One person could manage the growing of 10 ha of melons, but extra casual labour would be required for the laying of plastic mulch and trickle tape, planting and early weed control. Four people would be needed to harvest and pack each hectare of melons.
A standard picking rate is about 20 trays per person per hour, depending on fruit set and harvesting method.
A standard grading and packing rate is about 20 trays per person per hour, depending on fruit quality and the equipment being used.
Growing melons involves hard physical work, including tractor driving, handling heavy machinery and fertiliser bags, controlling weeds, harvesting, and packing and handling packed cartons. You will require a certain level of physical fitness to operate this kind of farm.
You also need a high level of management skills and thorough knowledge of the crop to grow and market melons successfully. Poor management of cultural operations can seriously reduce yield and quality. Do a thorough business plan. This will give you a more accurate picture of what you are getting into.
An ability to operate and maintain machinery, and to read and understand chemical labels, is essential. You will need careful attention to detail, and the ability to recognise and treat problems early, to be a successful grower. Knowledge of integrated pest management is also highly desirable because pests and diseases are major problems in melon production.
Experience in growing these crops is very valuable because simple mistakes can lead to major losses in marketable yield and quality. Weather conditions can also result in very high or even total loss of rockmelon and honeydew crops.
Quality is the most important factor in successful rockmelon and honeydew production. This starts with good land preparation and variety selection and continues through growing the crop to the careful harvesting, grading and marketing of the melons.
Note: Neither hydroponic nor organic production is well suited to production of rockmelons and honeydews.