This Groundbreaking Farm Is The First In The World To Produce Veggies With Only Sunlight And Seawater - Off-Grid

This Groundbreaking Farm Is The First In The World To Produce Veggies With Only Sunlight And Seawater

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Is it possible for a farm to thrive in the heart of a desert without soil, pesticides, fossil fuels or groundwater? Yes! A commercial-scale facility in South Australia is now producing 18,000 tons of tomatoes per year by only using sun and seawater. Sundrop Farms developed the world’s first agricultural system that grows crops with less reliance on finite natural resources than conventional greenhouse production.

A team of scientists from Europe and Australia spent six years fine-tuning the design of the futuristic farming facility. They built a pilot greenhouse in 2010 and launched a commercial-scale facility in October 2016.

The 20-hectare site is in the arid region of Port Augusta. It sources its water from the Spencer Gulf via a 5.5-kilometer pipe. It has a solar-powered desalination plant that removes the seawater’s salt, creating enough freshwater to irrigate the 180,000 tomato plants inside the greenhouses.

The farm does not need pesticides as seawater cleans and sterilizes the air. It cultivates tomatoes in coconut waste instead of soil. It sources its energy from 23,000 mirrors that reflect sunlight towards a high receiver tower. The concentrated sunlight can produce power of up to 39 megawatts, which are more than enough to meet the farm’s desalination needs and supply all the needs of the greenhouses.

The project is headed by former investment banker Philipp Saumweber who has a background in funding large-scale agricultural projects, and Dutch civil engineer Reinier Wolterbeek, whose specialty is in water management. The farm cost around 200 million dollars to build, with funding from private equity firm KKR which shouldered half of the initial investment. The government of South Australia also provided approximately six million dollars in grant funding. Sundrop hired construction firm John Holland to build the expanded facility.

KKR infused capital into the project due to the 10-year contract the farm secured with retailer Coles. According to Brad Gorman, Cole’s head of produce, the agreement is the longest they have in horticulture. The contract will give the retailer security about the volumes of vegetables that Sundrop Farms is going to grow.

Sundrop will fill the gap between supply and demand of tomatoes in winter, says Gorman – as the red fruits are one of the top-10 selling lines in the supermarket. Sundrop also operates greenhouses in Portugal and the U.S. Another one is planned for Australia.

The farm is a part greenhouse and part solar plant that reinvents agriculture. It’s long-term goal is to make farming more resilient to climate change. Sundrop is just part of a much bigger trend towards more innovative ways to produce food and sustainable intensification of farming.

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This Groundbreaking Farm Is The First In The World To Produce Veggies With Only Sunlight And Seawater
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