The Future FoodTech and World Agritech Investment Summits in London this week will unveil some of the leading agricultural innovations over the last few years. The focus will firmly be on post-harvest food industry, which is certainly emerging as the hottest sector for innovation and investment, but which technologies have the potential to deliver truly game-changing solutions? Let us consider one in particular; Sundrop Farms in Australia appears to have pulled off the ultimate agricultural feat. Their innovation harnesses the sun’s energy to desalinate seawater to produce freshwater for irrigation, produce electricity to power the greenhouse and provide the energy to heat and cool the greenhouse. Seawater drenched greenhouse ventilation cleans and sterilises the air, making it possible to grow high-quality, pesticide-free vegetables year-round in commercial quantities. The system relies mainly on renewable inputs to achieve the best possible outcomes for our planet and the best possible produce for customers.

A Case Study: Sundrop Farm

To grow crops; land, water, and energy are needed. These resources are finite. But with Sundrop Farms these resources can be reinvented the other way around. In 2010, Sundrop Farms opened its first pilot facility in Port Augusta, South Australia. Located in the middle of a desert, it would have been impossible to grow food in the area using a tradition farming method. But Sundrop is changing the game. It is growing crops in the desert through a latest innovative means. It is combining seawater and sunlight to grow food in the middle of the desert.

With this technology, climate change, drought, floods and pestilence are no longer a concern for Sundrop Farms. Sundrop harnesses solar power and desalinated water on its 20-hectare farm to grow 17,000 metric tons of food every year at Port Augusta. The farm has a year-round growing season. During winter, the greenhouse is charged with 39 megawatts of clean energy gained from solar power. This ensures that the farm keeps running and producing. It is said the farm cost $200 million to build funded mainly by KKR, the giant US Private Equity firm.

Because existing farming practices are unsustainable, if things don’t change the world faces a bleak future. By 2050 rising populations will see a 50% increase in food demand with about 9.3 billion people in desperate need of the planet’s resources such as food, water, land and energy security. Climate change, desertification and shrinking forests have become serious challenges. It is ever clearer that we need to look at alternative and innovative ways to sustainability. That’s no longer a preferred option but a necessity.