THE FARMS OF THE FUTURE – World’s first mass-scale facility that grows tomatoes without soil, fresh water or fossil fuels
THE FARMS OF THE FUTURE…Sustainable farming could be the key to dealing with food shortages. First-Of-Its-Kind Farm Uses Seawater and Solar Power to Grow Crops. World’s first mass-scale facility that grows tomatoes without soil, fresh water, or fossil fuels launches in Australia. Sundrop Farms’ system creates 39 megawatts of energy per day, enough to maintain 18,000 tomato plants inside a greenhouse. It is in the middle of a desert and completely independent of non-renewable resources.
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.
“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.
But while it’s certainly an impressive feat, there is an argument that says there’s simply not much point using solar energy production facilities like this to grow fruit and vegetables. Talking to New Scientist, Paul Kristiansen from the University of New England in Australia said that it was “a bit like crushing a garlic clove with a sledgehammer.” He added, “We don’t have problems growing tomatoes in Australia.”
He has a point. Desalination is on the rise in many areas of the world, but it is mostly done through reverse osmosis, an expensive and energy-intensive process. As a result, desalination plants really only make sense in places that are water-stressed and have the resources necessary to build, run, and maintain them.
That may change as cheaper techniques become more robust and fresh water supplies dwindle in some places as a result of climate change. Even then, though, this isn’t a technology that’s likely to catch on in poorer regions—which, unfortunately, are also the most likely to have a hard time adapting to shifting climate patterns. Solving that problem is likely to be a matter not of sheltering plants in greenhouses, but of designing crops that really can survive in a desert.
Read more: Farmers Weekly, New Scientist, “To Make Fresh Water without Warming the Planet, Countries Eye Solar Power,”