Sundrop Farms grows tomatoes with seawater

Saltwater greenhouses can save the Middle East and humanity from drought and climate change. Three cheers to Sundrop Farms in Australia for pioneering saltwater greenhouses in Australia: they are now harvesting tomatoes for a leading grocery store called Coles. And Sundrop is producing what they say is a “better product, better for the people, better for the planet –– all year round.”

Sundrop Farms is using hydroponics, a method of growing plants on a treated water medium, without soil. It’s an extremely efficient way for growing plants, and it’s now becoming a leading choice for growing food in difficult climates, in urban centers or in areas where water is poor and lacking. In China for instance where the soil is contaminated with cadmium and lead, people are very eager to buy organic food grown hydroponically.

Sundrop says it’s the first farming system of its kind to have reached commercial scale. The 65-hectare facility was made possible with an investment of 200 million Australian dollars ($148 million) which paid for a desalination plant, greenhouses and other installations needed to grow the tomatoes.

It’s a bet worth betting as we see the rise in agricultural crops in Australia and the world.

The Sundrop greenhouses are powered by sunlight, using 23,000 mirrors that reflect rays toward the top of a 127-meter high receiver tower that turns the sun into electricity.

This power is used to pump seawater from 5km away. Beyond producing tomatoes, the facility also produces 1 million liters of fresh water every single day.

Sundrop Farms CEO Philipp Saumweber, a former investment banker, says the agriculture model as “innovative” in that it harnesses only seawater and sunlight.

A number of companies are leading technology in this area, including BrightFarms (US), Phillips (Holland), Aerofarms (US) and my startup flux, which has created artificial intelligence and a product named Eddy to understand the language of plants. Watch this market of vertical farming grow into trillion dollar opportunities.

 

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