A farming tech startup has developed a low-water method for growing produce in the desert, by using seawater to cool its greenhouses
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Spotted: Saudi Arabia has a problem with a lack of freshwater – a problem being faced by a growing number of other countries as well. Because most water is used by agriculture, this means that Saudi Arabia has had to import most of its food, as it lacks the water resources to grow its own in large quantities. But that may be about to change. Startup Red Sea Farms has developed a technology to allow saltwater to be used in commercial farming.
Red Sea Farms has developed a high-tech greenhouse for use in hot, dry climates. Unlike other greenhouses, which aim to raise the temperature, the Red Sea greenhouses counter Saudi Arabia’s scorching temperatures by keeping the plants cool. Around 95 per cent of water used in their greenhouse goes toward the cooling system, rather than irrigation. So, when the company uses seawater for cooling, rather than freshwater, it saves a tremendous number of resources in the process.
Red Sea is also working on a technology that can block infrared light to prevent heating in the greenhouses. To prove their system works, Red Sea also went into the farming business, growing 15 types of produce in its greenhouses, including cherries and snap tomatoes. The tomatoes can even tolerate being watered partly with saltwater.
“Part of our excitement over Red Sea farms was about delivering an agriculture system that was more sustainable for the local environment, because we’re primarily using salt water and sunlight as our two main inputs, both of which exist in abundance,” explained Red Sea chief executive Ryan Lefers.
Making farming more sustainable, transparent and efficient is going to play a major role in fighting the climate crisis and issues of food scarcity. At Springwise, we have seen a great deal of interest in new farming models to address these issues. Recent innovations have included a circular food model, vertical farming initiatives and a company that helps city-dwellers own their own piece of farmland.
Written By: Lisa Magloff