World’s First Farm Grows Crops Using Solar Power and Seawater

Credit: YouTubePhoto, Sundrop Farms

Picture a barren and unproductive expanse thriving with crops. Are you wondering how this is possible? This is possible through research, innovation, and use of technology and it is a farm in Port Augusta, South Australia. The farm has shown the way ahead to farming based on groundbreaking technology. Blending solar power and seawater they have achieved to grow crops in the middle of a desert without use of non-renewable resources.

Sundrop Farms

Sundrop Farms, a tomato production facility, is a futuristic-looking greenhouse and the world’s first agricultural system that uses no soil, pesticides, fossil fuels, or groundwater.

How it works

The process starts with pumping 2 km (1.24 miles) of seawater every day from the Spencer Gulf to the 20-hectare facility. Next, the water runs through a solar-powered desalination plant, producing around one million litres of fresh water. This is used to irrigate the 18,000 tomato plants inside a greenhouse.

The process is powered by 23,000 mirrors which focus sunlight to a receiver tower (115 metres –[377 feet] tall) and producing up to 39-megawatts of energy per day. The plants are grown in coconuts husk. The air is sterilised by the seawater, which eliminates the need for pesticides. Employees weed the plants by hand eliminating the need for herbicides. The greenhouse is lined with seawater-soaked cardboard which works as a coolant for the plants and keeps them healthy. During winter the solar heating keeps the greenhouse warm.

The farm expects to produce 17,000 metric tons (37,000 pounds) of tomatoes every year. Australian supermarkets have already started selling the tomatoes which are produced by this greenhouse.

Future farming

CEO, Sundrop Farm, Philipp Saumweber states that during winter the greenhouse may need some back-up from the grid due to solar energy shortages. Improvements to the current design will look into eliminating this reliance on fossil fuels.

Similar sustainable greenhouses will be launched by Sundrop in Portugal and the US, with another in Australia in the near future. Meanwhile, other companies are pilot testing seawater greenhouses in desert areas of Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

According to Trucost, the current farming practices around the world cost around $3 trillion per year. With climate change, depletion of resources, and an increase in population by 2050 there will be a 50% increase in food demand. CTO, Sundrop Farms, Reinier Wolterbeek, said that considering the food, water, and energy shortages, they were addressing it with pioneering solar-powered greenhouse to grow food.

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