DeepResource

Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Growing Crops in the Australian Desert with Seawater

All you need to create a vegetable oasis in the middle of the desert is a pipeline to the sea, a CSP-power station and simple thermal-based desalinization installation. No need for fossil fuel or ground water extraction. It is difficult to come up with a more sustainable solution than this. In this century we don’t need oil pipelines, we need sea-water pipelines to bring life to the desert.

Sundrop Farms is a developer, owner and operator of high tech greenhouse facilities which grow crops using methods which reduce reliance on finite natural resources when compared to conventional greenhouse production. Sundrop Farms opened its first pilot facility in Port Augusta, South Australia, in 2010 (operating as Seawater Greenhouse Australia Pty Ltd). This facility was originally designed as a Seawater Greenhouse. However, significant technology changes led to the Sundrop System, and the dissolution of the joint venture with Seawater Greenhouse Ltd. Sundrop Farms commissioned an expanded 20 ha facility south of Port Augusta in 2016. Sundrop Farms has offices in London, UK and Adelaide, Australia. In October 2016, Sundrop Farms was operating greenhouses in Portugal, the United States and had another facility planned in Australia.

At that point [2008] Sundrop Farms was just a “two-person business”, involving now chief executive and German-born former investment banker Philipp Saumweber and Dutch civil engineer and chief technical officer Reinier Wolterbeek, and a theory of integrating solar power, electricity generation, fresh water production and hydroponics to grow crops in non-traditional conditions.

Project data:

– Officially launched in October 2016, after 6 years incubation
– Production ca. 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes/year (15% Australian market)
– Tomato plants are grown hydroponically (without soil)
– Sea water pipe: 45 cm diameter, 5 km long, flow 1,000 m3/day
– CSP plant of 23,000 mirrors for electricity (39 MW) and desalinization
– CSP tower 115 m
– Farm can operate pesticide-free
– Left-over brine is transported back to the sea
– Size greenhouse 20 hectare (200,000 m2)
– The CSP plant is Danish, the greenhouse Dutch
– Price 134 million euro

[sundropfarms.com] – Sundrop Farms project site
[wikipedia.org] – Sundrop Farms
[wikipedia.org] – Hydroponics
[wired.co.uk] – These farms use sun and seawater to grow crops in the arid desert
[hortidaily.com] – New owners for Sundrop Farms
[vanderhoeven.nl] – Sundrop Farms
[abc.net.au] – Sundrop Farms pioneering solar-powered greenhouse
[wattisduurzaam.nl] – Nederlander kweekt 17.000 ton zoete tomaten op zeewater

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