Oct 25, 2016: Sundrop farms situated in the desert region of southern Australia, grows and supplies 15% of the nation’s tomatoes using solar power and seawater. In the beginning of October 2016, this desert farm marked the launch of its first commercial-scale facility of this calibre in the world, which utilizes solar power to de-salinate seawater and manoeuvre greenhouses with the aim to grow more than 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes each year.
Saving natural resources
As compared to conventional greenhouse farms, this solar-backed sustainable technology will help to save major amounts of natural resources while preventing considerable level of pollution.
The solar technology will help to reduce 26,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year would, which is equival to removing 500 cars from roads across Australia, according to a Sundrop spokesperson. Further, it will help to save fresh water, equivalent of 180 Olympic size swimming pools and, above two million litres of diesel on a yearly basis.
No need for soil
Tomatoes are grown hydroponically in coconut coir, removing the need for soil. The concentrated solar tower generates heat and electricity to maintain the ideal conditions inside the greenhouses to facilitate the plants to grow. This heat is used to de-salinate one million litres of seawater daily. The fresh water produced is used to water the plants and cool the greenhouses.
The $200m venture has been costly to build, but it has substantially fewer operating costs as compared to conventional greenhouses due toits sustainable nature, according to the company.
Potential remedy for food security
The solar venture can be seen as a potential model for countries facing shortages in fresh water and energy supplies. Food security becomes a pressing issue with growing populations, energy is usually a limiting variable. Although Sundrop’s system may work well in desert regions in the Middle East, it would not be practical economically in places with a plenty of fresh water like Canada.