Can hi-tech greenhouses feed the world?

In a remote corner of the Australian outback, where temperatures climb above 40 degrees Celsius in summer and fresh water is scarce, Philipp Saumweber is growing vine-ripened tomatoes.

Inside a space-age greenhouse, the former Goldman Sachs banker turned chief executive of Sundrop Farms is producing 16,000 tonnes of truss tomatoes a year. The 20-hectare facility, which he believes is the future of farming, is powered by a concentrated solar thermal plant, which generates most of the energy required to cool the plants and desalinate seawater to irrigate the crops.

“We can play a small part in solving the problem the world faces in feeding an ever growing global population,” says Mr Saumweber, slicing a juicy tomato and handing it over for a taste test.

“You don’t see many others growing crops on the edge of a desert.”

With the global population forecast to rise to 9bn by 2050, growing enough food at low cost is one of the world’s most urgent and complex political problems.

Last year, one in nine of the world’s 7.4bn population were undernourished, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN. In sub-Saharan Africa the rate is far higher: almost a quarter of people go hungry due to the combination of harsh climate, lack of fresh water, poor land, war and poverty.


* Agrolution via


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