Quantcast

World's First Farm to Use Solar Power and Seawater Opens in Australia

Popular

Sundrop Farms, a tomato production facility that is the first agricultural system of its kind in the world, celebrated its grand opening in Port Augusta, South Australia, Thursday.


Instead of soil, pesticides, fossil fuels and groundwater, Sundrop Farms uses only solar power and desalinated seawater to grow tomatoes across 49 acres. The water is pumped into the facility from the Spencer Gulf about 1.2 miles away where it is desalinated to water the farm's 180,000 tomato plants.

Screenshot from Sundrop Farms Vimeo video.

"The farm's solar power is generated by 23,000 mirrors that reflect sunlight towards a 115-meter (377-foot) high receiver tower. On a sunny day, up to 39 megawatts of energy can be produced—enough to power the desalination plant and supply the greenhouse's electricity needs," NewsScientist explained.

Graphic showing how the tower works to power the desalination plant.Screenshot from Sundrop Farms Vimeo video.

"We knew that considering the increase in population that we had to address the food shortage, the water shortage, the energy shortage," Reinier Wolterbeek, chief technical officer at Sundrop Farms, said.

This process helps work around the area's desert climate that is unsuitable for conventional farming. Seawater-soaked cardboard keeps the plants cool enough to stay healthy during the hot months, and solar heating keeps the greenhouse warm during the winter months. The seawater helps sterilize the air and the plants are grown in coconut husks allowing them to thrive without the use of pesticides.

RenewEconomy reports the farm will produce more than 118 million gallons of freshwater each year, the equivalent of 180 Olympic size swimming pools, and displace the use of more than 2 million liters of diesel a year.

"This state-of-the-art development is a massive boost for Port Augusta and the Upper Spencer Gulf, creating almost 200 jobs and heralding the start of an exciting new industry for the region," South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said. "It also aligns with several of South Australia's key economic priorities, including creating premium food and wine from our clean environment and growth through innovation."

The farm expects to produce 17,000 metric tons—37,000 pounds of tomatoes—every year, about 13 percent of Australia's market share, and will be sold at a fixed price for 10 years exclusively at Coles Supermarkets.

"Because we do everything in a controlled environment, we know what our input costs are, and we're doing everything on a renewable basis, we can provide real consistency of supply and a higher quality product at a better price year 'round," Philipp Saumweber, chairman and CEO of Sundrop Farms, said.

Saumweber explained that with extreme weather events making it difficult to consistently provide consumers with products, Coles would at times find themselves without quality product, or without any product, and the two partnered to find a solution.

One of those solutions was already put to the test last week during a once-in-50-year storm that wreaked havoc in South Australia. Sundrop Farms was able to take the brunt of high winds and continue operations despite a massive blackout that crippled Whyalla steelworks and shut down the mines of mining giants BHP Billiton and OZ Minerals in northern South Australia.

Port Augusta mayor Sam Johnson told AFR that while there had been significant financial losses to businesses and households from the blackout in the regional city, Sundrop Farms is "living proof" that its groundbreaking technology could work on a large scale.

Sundrop is planning to launch similar sustainable greenhouses in Portugal and the U.S., and another in Australia.

Watch more on Sundrop Farms here:

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A new report spotlights a U.N. estimate that at least 275 million people rely on healthy coral reefs. A sea turtle near the Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef is seen above. THE OCEAN AGENCY / XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY

By Jessica Corbett

In a new report about how the world's coral reefs face "the combined threats of climate change, pollution, and overfishing" — endangering the future of marine biodiversity — a London-based nonprofit calls for greater global efforts to end the climate crisis and ensure the survival of these vital underwater ecosystems.

Read More
Half of the extracted resources used were sand, clay, gravel and cement, seen above, for building, along with the other minerals that produce fertilizer. Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty Images

The world is using up more and more resources and global recycling is falling. That's the grim takeaway from a new report by the Circle Economy think tank, which found that the world used up more than 110 billion tons, or 100.6 billion metric tons, of natural resources, as Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Read More
Sponsored

By Gero Rueter

Heating with coal, oil and natural gas accounts for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. But that's something we can change, says Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passive House Institute in the western German city of Darmstadt.

Read More
Researchers estimate that 142,000 people died due to drug use in 2016. Markus Spiske / Unsplash

By George Citroner

  • Recent research finds that official government figures may be underestimating drug deaths by half.
  • Researchers estimate that 142,000 people died due to drug use in 2016.
  • Drug use decreases life expectancy after age 15 by 1.4 years for men and by just under 1 year for women, on average.

Government records may be severely underreporting how many Americans die from drug use, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University.

Read More
Water coolers in front of shut-off water fountains at Center School in Stow, MA on Sept. 4, 2019 after elevated levels of PFAS were found in the water. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In a new nationwide assessment of drinking water systems, the Environmental Working Group found that toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS are far more prevalent than previously thought.

Read More