Agriculture in deserts is possible
Water is scarce in the desert. And sweet water is even a bigger problem. But not anymore.
Have you ever heard about greenhouses in the desert in which vegetables successful grow, using salt water? No need to desalinate anymore.
Sahara Forest Project
This new technology ensures that salt water barely penetrates the holes and evaporates before reaching the plant. Subsequently the salt-less moisture condensates on the plants. The invention opens the way to agriculture in dry, hot places close to oceans where growing food has never been an easy option.
That’s what makes the Sahara Forest Project interesting. Its saltwater greenhouse uses half as much freshwater as conventional greenhouses, and it could allow water-poor countries to grow food more sustainably while reducing the need for food imports. It could even help re-vegetate deserts in some countries.
This is how it works
The greenhouse has a cardboard screen at one end with hundreds of small holes in it. Saltwater trickles down from above and evaporates as it meets hot air coming in from outside. The air indoors becomes humid and up to 15 degrees Celsius cooler than normal, while the moisture condensates on the plants, helping them to grow.
At the same time, the greenhouse also has a series of pipes full of cold ocean water. When warm air hits the pipes, droplets form on the surface, which are captured and used for irrigation.
The big unknown is cost. Hauge admits the cucumbers grown in the pilot were substantially more expensive. The pilot was designed to test technology, not to optimize finances.
The Food and Agricultural Organization took a look at the pilot and said “given yield levels in the pilot, the greenhouse can be profitable.”
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