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Farm Becomes First to Use Solar Power and Seawater to Grow Crops

Nov 17, 2016 08:43 AM EST
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A farm in South Australia is the first to utilize a combination of solar power and seawater to produce food in the middle of the desert, completely independent of non-renewable resources. 

Sundrop Farms in South Australia is currently combining solar power and seawater to produce food in its desert home. Seawater is pumped two kilometers from the Spencer Gulf to the 20-hectare farm. It is run through a desalination system that produces up to a trillion liters of fresh water every day, all used to irrigate 18,000 tomato plants inside a greenhouse.

The process itself is powered by 23,000 mirrors that focus sunlight onto a receiver tower 115 meters tall to produce up to 39-megawatts of energy. The plants are grown in coconuts husk, and the seawater sterilizes the air, meaning there is no need for pesticides. Herbicides are also no longer necessary as employees weed the plants by hand. 

This revolutionizes the way some view farming. Innovations in the industry focus on integrating technology into produced food. This meant the arrival of genetically engineered crops and livestock for improved production, health, or adaptability. However, Sundrop Farms is proof we need to change our perspective how we farm.

The process inside Sundrop Farms is less about creating new tech but is instead focused on combining existing technology in a new way. While the choice of tomatoes are criticized since they can be grown in non-desert areas, it may not be the case 20 to 50 years from now. 

It can be remembered that current farming practices will cost the world about $3-trillion a year. This is based on the environmental price of farming such as land use, water pollution, and deforestation. It will keep climbing due to climate change. Not only that, but the expected increase in population will increase food demand by half in 2050. 

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