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First Circular Tomato Farm

First Circular Tomato Farm

Sundrop Farms: The company that’s growing food in the desert. Complete circular and green

This tomato farm in Australia is the first agricultural facility of it’s kind, combining solar power with desalination and countering the requirement for fresh water and fossil fuels.

The firm celebrated its grand opening in Port Augusta, South Australia, last Thursday.

A complete circular farm is possible. This tomato farms proofs it.

Instead of soil, pesticides, fossil fuels and groundwater, Sundrop Farms uses only solar power and desalinated seawater to grow tomatoes across 49 acres.

  • The water is pumped into the facility from the Spencer Gulf about 1.2 miles away where it is desalinated to water the farm’s 180,000 tomato plants.
  • “The farm’s solar power is generated by 23,000 mirrors that reflect sunlight towards a 115-meter (377-foot) 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.

Reinier Wolterbeek, chief technical officer at Sundrop Farms:

“We knew that considering the increase in population that we had to address the food shortage, the water shortage, the energy shortage.

This process helps work around the area’s desert climate that is unsuitable for conventional farming. Seawater-soaked cardboard keeps the plants cool enough to stay healthy during the hot months, and solar heating keeps the greenhouse warm during the winter months. The seawater helps sterilize the air and the plants are grown in coconut husks allowing them to thrive without the use of pesticides.

RenewEconomy reports the farm will produce more than 118 million gallons of freshwater each year, the equivalent of 180 Olympic size swimming pools, and displace the use of more than 2 million liters of diesel a year.

“This state-of-the-art development is a massive boost for Port Augusta and the Upper Spencer Gulf, creating almost 200 jobs and heralding the start of an exciting new industry for the region,” South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said.

“It also aligns with several of South Australia’s key economic priorities, including creating premium food and wine from our clean environment and growth through innovation.”

13% market share

The farm expects to produce 17,000 metric tons—37,000 pounds of tomatoes—every year, about 13 percent of Australia’s market share.

Extreme weather events has been making it difficult to consistently provide consumers with products. Sometimes it was hard to deliver enough tomatoes with the usual quality. The Tomato farm had to find a solution.

  • One of those solutions was already put to the test last week during a once-in-50-year storm that wreaked havoc in South Australia.
    Sundrop Farms was able to take the brunt of high winds and continue operations despite a massive blackout that crippled Whyalla steelworks and shut down the mines of mining giants BHP Billiton and OZ Minerals in northern South Australia.
  • Sundrop Farms is “living proof” that its groundbreaking technology could work on a large scale.

Sundrop is planning to launch similar sustainable greenhouses in Portugal and the U.S., and another in Australia.

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