18 November 2018

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Tomatoes grown in Australian desert from sunshine and seawater

Using salt water and sunlight, Sundrop Farms is able to produce 15 million kilograms (33 million pounds) of tomatoes a year from the Australian desert.

South Australia is at the forefront of sustainable agriculture this month, with the official opening of a tomato farm in Port Augusta. It’s not just any tomato farm. Sundrop Farms is a hydroponic greenhouse facility that doesn’t use fossil fuels, groundwater, pesticides or soil. The $200 million, 20-hectare farm doesn’t even take up valuable arable land. It’s located on arid, degraded land that is too barren for traditional agriculture.

Here’s how it works. A solar tower standing 115 metres (377 feet) high with 23,000 mirrors pointed at it provides all the power the farm requires, for heating and cooling. It also powers a desalination plant, which converts seawater into freshwater to keep the plants irrigated. And to top it off, the facility provides jobs for 175 people.

“Through the establishment of our high-tech greenhouse facilities, we are driving solutions for the production of healthy food in a manner that eradicates the impacts of variability to ensure sufficient supply of produce in line with consumer expectations, and ultimately promote long-term viability of farming in regions facing water and energy supply constraints,” said Sundrop Farms managing director Steve Marafiote.

The South Australian farm has already started producing fruit, which it is supplying to supermarket chain Coles. Sundrop Farms has also broken ground on two new facilities, one in Portugal and the other in Tennessee, the US.

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