Australia-based Sundrop Farms became the first company to grow crops in the desert using only seawater and sunlight with the official launch of its Port Augusta farm, after a six-year pilot.
The farm, located in South Australia close to the Outback, is expected to produces upwards of 16,000 tons of tomatoes per year.
It works by pumping in seawater, using sustainable energy from the farm’s concentrated solar plant. The salt is then removed, creating enough fresh water to irrigate the tomato plants inside the farm’s greenhouse.
The plant’s solar power is generated by 23,000 mirrors which reflect the intense Australian sunlight towards a solar tower. On a clear day up to 39MWs of energy can be produced.
While it has been suggested such an energy-intensive method of growing tomatoes is not really necessary in Australia, where tomatoes are easily grown in other parts of the country, the technology could help make farming more resilient to climate change in the future.
In 2016, the company completed its first European farm in Odemira, Portugal, and broke ground on another located in Chuckey, Tennessee, in the US.