Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the category “agriculture”

Towards the End of Open Air Farming?

The current drought in Italy and elsewhere in Europe, followed by drastic measures to reduce water consumption, underline that open air farming could slowly become a thing of the past. The production of 1 kg tomatoes in open air farming requires 200 liter water. In a closed-system hydroponics greenhouse, that consumption is reduced to 12 liters. At this low level, even desalinated seawater can be considered as a source, as this project in Australia has proven. An additional advantage is that production can take place all year around.

[] – Drought emergency declared in northern Italy
[deepresource] – Growing Crops in the Australian Desert with Seawater

How Saudi Arabia Is Turning Their Desert Into Green Forest

YouTube text:

This is Saudi Arabia measuring a massive 2 million square km, making it the 14th largest country by landmass! However, 95 percent of the kingdom is a hot dry desert where you find lots and lots of sand! It is also one of the few countries where you find not a single permanent river! You are also looking at a country where the average annual rainfall is below 150 mm all year round! However, if you zoom in on the country, you will see something totally unexpected; arable land! Saudi Arabia is dotted by a network of farmlands where agriculture thrives, letting farmers harvest many kinds of fruits, an abnormality in the hot desert! You will also immediately notice that most of the farmlands are in circles! The nation has 35,000 square kilometers of arable land, which is larger than the Netherlands and larger than three times the size of Qatar! However, in the early sixties, Saudi Arabia only had 400 square kilometers of arable land! How did the oil-rich kingdom multiply its arable land in so short a period? Join us in this video as we dive into the ingenious methods Saudi Arabia has used to turn its desert into a farmland oasis!

Spain is Greening the Desert

YouTube text:

How Spain is Turning it’s Deserts into a Farmland Oasis

Spain is home to The Tabernas Desert, known as mainland Europe’s only desert. Shockingly scientific research suggests that Spain is set to become completely desertified in the next 80 years, right now 31.5% of Spain is already affected by desertification and 18% is at high risk of becoming irreversibly desert. This is due to the increase in temperatures, droughts, and less precipitation has made southern Europe vulnerable to problems such as “lower food production, soil infertility, decreases in the land’s natural resilience, and reduced water quality” as the European Court of Auditors (ECA) has pointed out in its report “Combating desertification in the EU.”

The Iberian peninsular was once covered in ancient oak forests, and over the last centuries was completely deforested for timber use and overgrazing livestock. Currently 16 million hectares of land is used for Intensive industrial agriculture which is rapidly eroding the soil further.

However Spain has been making some remarkable restoration developments turning large areas suffering from desertification into fertile land. This transformation is a major accomplishment considering Spain’s semi arid regions only receive 11 inches of rainfall per year.

We are going to tell you how and why Spain is turning its deserts into bio-diverse ecosystems and fertile farmlands

In this episode of our Greening the Desert Series we will be exploring one of Spain’s many remarkable restoration projects to re-green the desert and turn it back into fertile land.

We will start of by visiting one of the most drastically effected areas in the north eastern coastal region of Spain called Catalonia. Where Coastal forests and farmlands are affected by saltwater intrusion and soil salinization due to sea levels rising, storms, tides, droughts, and water resources management. Salinization of soil negatively impacts plant development and induces land degradation, turning these already semi arid regions into deserts. The increased amount of soil salination is exasperated by the loss of the dune habitat which acts as a natural barrier between the land and the sea.

The sand dunes of coastal Spain having been declining since the 1970s and accelerated in recent decades due to over tourism. Local wildlife has suffered, sea turtles and birds have declined with many species of plants endangered or have disappeared all together.

In 2003 the government started a restoration of the dunes project near Barcelona airport and by 2019 it has expanded its initiative countrywide by using a very simple and cost effective technique.

A report on the Assessment of the Restoration of the Dunes was published by Antoni Calafatlast last year, which have shown a considerable improved in recent years and I have seen first hand how it has helped to restore coastal forests and farmlands since.

[] – Desert greening

Agromining – Could Plants Help Solve Our Addiction to Mining?

Bloomberg – Agro-mining is the process of growing plants that absorb metals from the ground. The science is solid, but will this innovation ever be scalable enough to reduce traditional, destructive mining practices? Presented by Sabic.

[] – Agro-mining: the alternative for sustainable mining
[] – Agromining: Farming for Metals in the Future?

Phytomining technology employs hyperaccumulator plants to take up metal in harvestable plant biomass. Harvesting, drying and incineration of the biomass generates a high-grade bio-ore. We propose that “agromining” (a variant of phytomining) could provide local communities with an alternative type of agriculture on degraded lands; farming not for food crops, but for metals such as nickel (Ni). However, two decades after its inception and numerous successful experiments, commercial phytomining has not yet become a reality. To build the case for the minerals industry, a large-scale demonstration is needed to identify operational risks and provide “real-life” evidence for profitability.

[] – Agromining: Farming for Metals

[The book] describes the agronomy of metal crops and opportunities for incorporating agromining into rehabilitation and mine closure, including test cases for agromining of nickel, cobalt, manganese, arsenic, selenium, cadmium, zinc, thallium, rare earth elements and platinum group elements.

Exploding Gas Prices Open Goal for Geothermal Energy

Exploding gas prices world-wide

Never waste a good crisis! Dutch horticulture is sounding the alarm about the consequences of exploding gas prices for the price of their greenhouse produce. All year around production of vegetables costs a lot of energy, especially thermal heat. Tiny Netherlands is the world’s 2nd largest agricultural exporter, only after the US, and has a lot to lose… and gain, if it picks up the gauntlet of the impending energy crisis.

An alternative for natural gas to heat green houses exists, again under Dutch clogs. Not the natural gas from Slochteren, that served the Netherlands wonderfully for 5 decades and once was the 9th gas field in the world, but from geothermal heat from 2-3 km depth.

The good news for the Netherlands is that the competition has the same energy cost problem, or doesn’t produce in the winter. On top of that, people can abstain from holidays abroad or postpone the purchase of a new car, but they will continue to eat, even if prices go up, guaranteeing continued income.

The 2021 energy crisis could become the tipping point for the application of geothermal energy in the Netherlands, to begin with in greenhouse horticulture and later expanding into space heating. It’s all wonderful, these wind turbines and solar panels, but in NW-Europe, space heating is by far the largest chunk in the primary energy budget.

Bring it on.

[] – Tuinders slaan alarm over gasprijs
[] – Van aardgasland tot aardwarmteland
[] – Overview of existing Dutch geothermal projects, most in agriculture

[source] Geothermal project Luttelgeest

Agrovoltaics Revisited

Agricultural produce loves the sun, just like humans. But both for humans and plants applies the adage: enough is enough. There is a saturation point (1000 PAR, see link below), above which no further biomass gain is achieved. For densely populated territories like Western Europe, there is an instinctive reservation about using scarce land solely for solar parks. But what if agriculture and energy harvesting can be combined? That would be a win-win. Picture for instance Spain, Italy or Greece, a blazing sun (up to 2000 PAR), a herd of cows in a field and a few trees. Where will the cows go at high noon? Exactly, they will stand under the trees, in the shadow. The plants would love that too, but they have no legs. Solar panels to the rescue as a protection against too much solar radiation? Less vaporescence as an added bonus?

[deepresource] – The Case for Agrivoltaics
[deepresource] – Agrophotovoltaics – Lowering the Cost of Renewable Energy
[deepresource] – Airborn Solar Panels
[] – Italien will Agro-Photovoltaik mit 1,1 Milliarden Euro sowie Energiegemeinschaften und Speicher mit 2 Milliarden Euro fördern

Carbon Farming – Storing CO2 in the Soil as Biomass

Carbon Farming is a new way of farming to sequestrate carbon in the soil. Carbon that otherwise ends up as CO2 in our atmosphere, causing climate change. There are many ways to do this: from small adjustments on farm level – like applying fertilizers rich in carbon, reduced or no-tillage, or planting cover crops – to changes in the entire farming system – like enriched crop rotation or agroforestry.

[] – What is carbon farming?
[] – Carbon farming
[] – EU sets the carbon farming initiative in motion
[] – Carbon farming: koolstofboeren in Zeeland

Read more…

Indoor Farming – Advantages as Far as the Eye Can See

Despite being one of the smallest countries on earth, the Netherlands manages to be the 2nd in agricultural exports. Key to the secret: glasshouse farming.

Advantages greenhouse farming:

  • Much less water consumption per kg of produce
  • Extended growth season, up until 12 months/year
  • Little need for pesticides
  • Much higher yield/m2, up to 350 times compared to open fields
  • Producing near consumers, saving produce transport cost
  • Huge potential for automation
  • Protection harvest against extreme weather
  • Possibility of increased yield through CO2 injection
  • Possibility of warming the greenhouse in the winter with geothermal heat

[deepresource] – Growing Crops in the Australian Desert with Seawater

Gulf States Create Artificial Rain with Drones

[] – Dubai creates its own RAIN to tackle 122F heat: Drones blast clouds with electrical charge to produce downpours

Application of CSP in Agriculture

[] – 36.6 MW integrated energy system based on CSP in Australia
[deepresource] – Growing Crops in the Australian Desert with Seawater

Post Navigation