This incredible farm makes tomato plants bloom in the desert using nothing more than sunlight and seawater. Needing no soil, fossil fuels, groundwater, or pesticides, Sundrop Farms grows crops in a hydroponic greenhouse lined with water-drenched cardboard. The 20-hectare farm officially opened on October 6th near Port Augusta, and their desert-grown tomatoes are already for sale in Australian grocery stores.
Sundrop Farms works agricultural magic. Conventional farming won’t work in the desert region, but that doesn’t matter for this desert farm. It obtains water from the Spencer Gulf, and desalinizes the water using renewable energy. 23,000 mirrors reflect light to a receiver tower to generate solar power. When the sun is shining, the system can provide 39 megawatts ofclean energy – that’s enough to keep the desalination plant working and power the greenhouse, which is heated during the winter.
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The facility can grow 17,000 metric tons of produce each year. 18,000 tomato plants grow in the greenhouse, and Sundrop Farms aims to grow other crops like fruit and peppers. Plants are grown in coconut husks, and the farm employs “predatory insects” to control pests that could harm plants.
The farming system cost $200 million to build – but Sundrop Farms CEO Philipp Saumweber says the hefty price tag will pay off over time because the farm won’t need to purchase any fossil fuels. The farm can hook up to the grid if there are winter solar power shortages, however its ultimate goal is to progress to the point where it’s completely self-sufficient.