Sunshine and seawater. That’s all a new, futuristic-looking greenhouse needs to produce 17,000 tonnes of tomatoes per year in the South Australian desert.
It’s the first agricultural system of its kind in the world and uses no soil, pesticides, fossil fuels or groundwater.
The farm’s solar power is generated by 23,000 mirrors that reflect sunlight towards a 115-metre 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.
A conventional greenhouse uses groundwater for irrigation, gas for heating, and electricity for cooling.
There is no need for pesticides as seawater cleans and sterilises the air, and plants grow in coconut husks instead of soil.
Seawater is piped 2 kilometres from the Spencer Gulf to Sundrop Farm – the 20-hectare site in the arid Port Augusta region. A solar-powered desalination plant removes the salt, creating enough fresh water to irrigate 180,000 tomato plants inside the greenhouse.
SOURCES – Sundrop Farms, Vimeo, New Scientist