IN a bid to convert some of the world’s most arid areas into fertile fruit and vegetable farms, scientists around the world have developed ways to turn seawater into fresh water using solar energy.
The Sundrop Farm is a state-of-the-art greenhouse facility at Port Augusta in South Australia. Sundrop Farms use a scientifically thought-out recipe of sunlight and seawater to produce a whopping 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes a year.
The $200 million project, which involves about 2.8 million liters of seawater being pumped each day from the nearby Spencer Gulf into the 127m boiler tower, which in turn is fuelled by the reflection of the sun’s rays on to more than 23,000 mirrors. The boiler generates steam to heat 20 hectares of greenhouses, with the steam then cooled to create irrigation water for the crops. Seawater is also used in the ventilation system to clean and sterilize the air, with the theory being that crops could be grown without the need for chemicals to control pests.
The Sahara Forest Project is founded on the idea that deserts once again can be lush and green. After 1.5 years of operations in Jordan, it has demonstrated its capacity to grow high-end vegetables all-year round, sold to the local market and tourism sector in Aqaba. Now, different vegetables such as pak choi, cherry tomatoes, herbs and lettuce are trialed out and tested. In addition, outside the greenhouses, more than 90% of the different outdoor crops planted have survived this period of operations. The facility in Jordan will serve as an inspiration to other dry areas of the world with freshwater scarcity and proximity to saltwater.