Sundrop Farms, a tomato production facility that is the first agricultural system of its kind in the world, celebrated its grand opening in Port Augusta, South Australia, on Oct 6, 2016. An ecowatch story states 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,” NewsScientist explained.
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.
The farm expects to produce 17,000 metric tons—37,000 pounds of tomatoes—every year, about 13 percent of Australia’s market share, and will be sold at a fixed price for 10 years exclusively at Coles Supermarkets.
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.
Port Augusta mayor Sam Johnson told AFR that while there had been significant financial losses to businesses and households from the blackout in the regional city, 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.